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Subacute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA): a Review


Ruminant Health Unit, Department of Farm Animal Health, Utrecht University, The Netherlands


Subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) is likely to arise when an easily palatable, high-energy diet meets a ruminal environment not adapted to this type of substrate. Increase of short-chained fatty acids (SCFA) will occur. Eventually, this may result in a transient nadir of ruminal pH below 5.5. Two situations are likely to represent the risk of SARA. First, fresh lactating cows are confronted with a diet considerably differing from that in the dry-period. A diet change carried out too rapidly or without proper transition management will put the animals at risk. Secondly, further in lactation, inaccurate calculation of dry-matter-intake (DMI) leading to wrong roughage/concentrate ratio, an inadequate content of structure within the diet or mistakes in preparing of total mixed rations may produce SARA. The consequences of SARA are diverse and complex. Laminitis is regularly connected to SARA and the negative impact of organic acids on the ruminal wall may lead to parakeratosis enabling translocation of pathogens into the bloodstream provoking inflammation and abscessation throughout the ruminant body. Moreover, milk-fat depression (MFD) can be related to SARA. In order to achieve a proper diagnosis, SARA has to be understood as a herd-management problem. A screening of the herd for SARA by means of a rumenocentesis, performed on a sample-group, preferably 12 individuals, may reveal the presence of SARA. The herd screening should include the risk group suspected, preferably. The prevention of SARA applies to the principles of ruminant feeding. Careful transition management from the dry to the lactation period and control of fibre-content and ration quality should be more yielding than the use of buffers or antibiotic drugs.