Calves that develop rough hair coats, appear depressed or ill-thrifty, and have poor growth may be suffering from a condition called “rumen drinking." This is caused by the failure of the reticular groove reflex resulting in rumen acidosis in calves on a liquid diet. When the reticular groove partially or completely fails to close, milk spills into the rumen and is fermented to lactic acid. This acid formation is not desired and decreases the pH in the rumen causing inflammation in the lining of the stomach.

There are a number of conditions that can make calves more susceptible to rumen drinking caused by failure of esophageal groove closure. Some include:

·         Neonatal diarrhea

·         Irregular feeding times

·         Low-quality milk replacer

·         Milk or milk replacer fed at too cold of a temperature

·         Drinking from an open bucket- gulping milk

Signs of rumen acidosis due to rumen drinking include poor intake, dehydration due to diarrhea, bloated, distended abdomen, hair loss and lethargy.
Prevention is the key because the prognosis of calves chronically affected is poor. For the complete article on rumen drinking, read the Hubbard Feeds April Dairy Solutions E-Newsletter.