Content. Manure content can tell you how well cows are utilizing their feed and if they are undergoing any health issues. The first thing to look for would be any undigested feed particles. Lots of longer particle size pieces of corn silage or green grass indicate the rumen is not functioning properly and not digesting feed completely.
If there are undigested grains or smaller particles, it can mean an increased rate of passage due to slug feeding or other causes. Any undigested feed in manure is not being used by the cow for milk or maintenance needs, and is decreasing feed efficiency. Ensuring that cows are receiving the proper rations to promote optimum feed efficiency can save money on feed costs.
Manure should also not be foamy or contain mucous components. Foamy manure can result from gas production due to excess hindgut fermentation, which is not desirable. Mucous-like components, called mucin casts, in the manure are indicative of hindgut damage and are shed out of the large intestine. If too much acid is produced in the hindgut the intestinal wall can be damaged. When the wall is damaged mucin is produced and used by the body to help protect the lining of the intestine, the mucin is then shed later the manure. Regardless of the cause, mucin casts are signs of damage to the gut and should be considered abnormal.
Evaluating manure is a very useful and inexpensive tool to ensure you have healthy, efficient cows. Keeping an eye on manure color, consistency and content can tell you a lot about your cows. So next time you’re walking through a pen don’t just dodge the manure, take a few seconds to look and evaluate it on your own and get a better idea of what is really going on with your cows and your ration.