This section is from the book "The Farmers Ready Reference Or Hand Book Of Diseases Of Horses And Cattle", by S. C. Orr. . Also available from Amazon: The Farmer's Ready Reference;.
The disease known by this name is characterized by symptoms of indigestion followed by delirium. Various opinions have been advanced in regard to its cause, but no satisfactory treatment has yet been found. It is believed by some to be due to a minute parasitic fungus which grows upon stocks and blades of fodder left standing in the field, while others adhere to the theory of impaction in the stomach. As we are not in possession of anything from late investigations which will throw any light upon the subject, we copy an article written by the author of this work a few years ago on the latter theory and published in the Kansas Farmer.
"This affection has been known for ages past, under the different names of 'dry murrain', 'fardle-bound', 'grass staggers', 'impaction of the many plies', 'wood evil' and 'indigestion'. The different names simply indicate the ideas of the different individuals in regard to the nature of the disease, its causes, etc., according to the construction they each placed upon the peculiar symptoms exhibited by the animals affected. But, by whatever name the disease may be called, the pathology is just the same, namely, a disordered condition of the stomach, an imperfect performance of its functions, and either a partial or a total suspension of the process of digestion. The peculiar construction of the stomach of the ruminant or cud-chewing animal, makes its mode of feeding so entirely different from that of the non-ruminant, that, in order to make the subject more closely understood, a description is necessary. The stomach of the ox is very large as compared with that of the horse, and capable of containing a great amount of food. It is divided into four distinct compartments as follows: The rumen or paunch, reticulum or second stomach, the omasum or third stomach, sometimes also called the manyplies, and the abomasum or fourth stomach. The rumen is the largest of the four divis sions, and is equal in capacity to all the others combined The esophagus or gullet through which all food and drink passes from the mouth to the stomach, enters the rumen near its junction with the reticulum or second stomach, and continuing along the roof of the second stomach, not as a complete tube, but in the shape of two movable lips attached by one border to the walls of the second stomach, the other border being free, it enters the third stomach by a circular orifice. These lips, when open and passive, allow all food as it is swallowed to pass into the rumen, but, when they are drawn together, they form a channel known as esophageal groove and through which food can pass directly into the third stomach, and thence into the fourth, without stopping in the first or second. At the entrance of the esophagus into the rumen are also numerous small, fleshy points or papillse, which help to work the food to the place where it should go.
Now, when any ruminating animal feeds upon grass, hay or other coarse material, the food passes very rapidly and with very little mastication into the first stomach, where it becomes saturated and softened by the fluids supplied by that division, and also by the saliva which is secreted by the salivary glands and poured down the animal's throat, and by a sort of churning process, caused by the contracting and relaxing of the muscular walls of the stomach, it is prepared for the next step in the process of digestion. From the first stomach the food is gradually worked into the second, where it is worked into pellets or cuds and, by a peculiar spasmodic action, is thrown up by the reticulum, and grasped by the esophagus and returned to the mouth to be remasticated, when it is again swallowed, this time passing along the esophageal groove into the third stomach. This division is made up of numerous folds or leaves, between which the semi-ground food passes, and again undergoes a triturating or grinding process, and is then passed on to the fourth or true digestive stomach, where the process of digestion is easily completed. But should the food be more of the nature of chaff, or finely broken fodder, a great amount of it passes by the first and second stomachs into the third, where, if the food be of an especially dry and non-nutritive character, it becomes lodged between the manyplies, and not being saturated as it should be with the liquids from the first and second divisions, the fluid secreted by the third division alone is insufficient, and the result is an impaired condition of the stomach and the beginning of a case of impaction. Now, if this is allowed to go on day after day without change of food, the impaction increases, until finally the spaces between the manyplies become entirely filled up, leaving only a small channel through the lesser curvature of the stomach, along the edge of the manyplies, through which only food in a semi-fluid state can pass. The other divisions soon become affected, through sympathy with this one, and there is complete suspension of the functions of the entire digestive tract. Then the sensory nerves soon begin to transmit the disordered sensations to the brain, hence the train of nervous symptoms, so often seen in such cases.
When the brain has once become seriously affected, I do not think any treatment can save the animal. But, if the case can be taken when the animal only appears stupid, with impaired appetite, it will pay to treat it. Give Epsom salts, from one to two pounds, according to size of animal, dissolved in half a gallon of warm water, with one pint of molasses added, and follow with two quarts of warm linseed tea, or thin gruel, every two hours, and injections of warm water per rectum, and moderate exercise occasionally. If the medicine does not operate in twenty-four hours, repeat the dose, and continue the other treatment as before. But as our object in the beginning was to throw some light on the trouble in cornstalk feeding, we will proceed to that. It is a mystery to some why cattle will sometimes feed in one stalk field for weeks without any loss, and then be changed to another, and soon begin to die rapidly. Also that they will be turned into a field and seem to do well for a week, and then suddenly the mortality will begin. And then again, we often hear, that of two neighbors living side by side, one turns his cattle in the field and lets them remain there, with no loss whatever; while the other turns his in only a few hours at a time and tries to take every precaution against loss, as instructed by writers on the subject, yet his cattle will die as if a curse had been set upon them. This, we think will all be clear enough if we will note the difference in the condition of the fields. If the corn is of good, large growth and well matured, the danger is not very great. But if the stalks are small and not matured, the cob soft and spongy, the grains undeveloped, and the ears half covered with smut; blades, stalks and all, bitten by the frost and then dried by the sun and wind until they are capable of being ground up fine enough by a few strokes of the jaw, so that when swallowed, the whole mass will pass at once into the third stomach, and, being very dry and of almost no nutritive value, finds lodgment there from day to day, until the stomach becomes filled to such an extent that no medicine will relieve it.
A few good ears of corn may have been left in the field to be gathered by the cattle, and this will ward off the catastrophe for a few days, and thus account for their not dying when first turned in. In view of these facts, then, we should be able to form some idea of a preventive treatment.
In the first place, the cattle should have free access to both salt and water, and should be driven to the latter every day, if they do not go of their own accord. They should never go into the stalks except with full stomachs; they should not be left in over an hour at a time, and after the first two days leave them out a day, and continue in this way two days in and the third day out for at least two weeks, and when they are out of the stalks do not turn them into an old dry field to go hungry till the time comes to go into the stalks again, but feed liberally on good hay or well cured, green-cut fodder, accompanied by corn, bran, oil-cake, sliced roots or anything else that will form a nutritious and laxative diet, and see that they eat it before they are again allowed to enter the stalk field, and they should still be fed a little grain of some kind, even after they have become accustomed to the stalks. If this method of feeding does not prove a complete remedy it will at least lower the death rate, and those that live will be all the better for having had the extra care."