As many of you reading this probably know, colic is a grazing animal’s number one enemy. Fast-acting and extremely painful, colic often kills in less than 24 hours. While there are a number of precautions livestock owners can take to prevent colic, there is one precaution in particular that is frequently overlooked and yet highly effective: the use of Nelson’s automatic waterers.
The word “colic” is not a diagnosis in itself but rather a word to describe intestinal pain and/or blockage. Grazing animals are at a high risk for colic because their intestinal tracts are very long and bendy – ideal for a high-fiber diet but also prone to blockage and build-up, particularly when the animal is domesticated. Unlike their wild counterparts, who ingest fiber on a 24/7 basis, domesticated livestock usually get their fiber at intervals (morning and night) and often are given higher contents of fat to enhance their meat quality or performance (while beneficial, fat also contributes to intestinal build-up). In addition, domesticated livestock do not usually have as much room to move around and may in fact be stationary for long periods; immobility decreases intestinal movement and increases the risk of a blockage.
The blockage itself can be caused by a variety of factors – abdominal gas, sand, worms, twisted gut, impaction, etc. In most cases, though, colic is caused by one of two things: ingestion of a foreign body and impaction of food and/or fluid. In both cases, Nelson’s automatic waterers not only help but exponentially decrease risk.
The ingestion of a foreign body most often happens through the water supply; stagnant water will collect sand, debris, algae, etc. Automatic waterers will help minimize this risk; they provide a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Furthermore, they minimize algae and bacteria build-up that, in addition to putting the animal at risk for colic, also increases the risk of illness and disease.
Nelson’s Automatic waterers also provide cooler water, which slows the animal’s fluid intake. This is important in the prevention of impaction. Cooler water slows the animal down, helps the animal cool itself, and is generally far more relieving than lukewarm water from a still tank. However, you should always watch an animal you have just exercised rigorously, and pull him away from the waterer if you feel he has been drinking too long and/or too quickly. In fact it is best, after rigorous exercise, to hold the animal at halter and allow him to take short sips between minute-long intervals.
When an animal DOES colic, he will begin to pace, roll, bite and/or kick at his gut, and generally exhibit signs of discomfort. If you notice these symptoms, put your ear up to the animal’s belly and listen for abdominal movements. If you do not hear the usual gurgles, the animal’s abdominal tract is not working properly and you should call your vet immediately. The vet will be able to ascertain the cause of the colic and its appropriate treatment. Do not try to diagnose and treat the animal yourself, as there are many, many different kinds of colic and if not diagnosed and treated properly, are often fatal. Play it safe and call a professional if you suspect colic.