The Knowsley Safari Park Eland. Photo credit: Jen Quayle

This month has marked a first for eCow, our boluses have been deployed in a species of antelope at Knowsley Safari Park. Little is understood about the normal rumen pH of antelope, and so this can represent a substantial challenge when maintaining a healthy diet for those in captivity. We were contacted by the safari park veterinary surgeon, Jen Quayle, who has been looking for a way to understand the impact of the different diets on the rumen pH of the Eland.

The Eland is a large African antelope, and like all antelope species is a ruminant; their normal diet would consist of a mixture of grazing and browsing material. In captivity this diet is relatively easy to maintain during the summer months, however in winter supplementation with hay and concentrates is required. The Eland has evolved to digest a diet which is high in fibre and low in starch, therefore their rumen has a limited buffering capacity when digesting concentrates. This puts them at risk of acidosis which could have a substantial impact on their health and welfare.

Downloading data from the bolusesPhoto credit: Jen Quayle

Although these Eland are calm and can be easily approached in a vehicle, they are not used to being handled so regularly sampling rumen fluid would be challenging. However, occasionally the animals need to be sedated for routine health care, so this provided the perfect opportunity to insert the eCow bolus. Once the bolus enters the reticulum it will remain there, continually monitoring the pH and temperature. Data is recorded every 15 minutes allowing changes to the diet to be pinpointed, and then connected to variations in pH and temperature.

“The eCow boluses have given us the opportunity to monitor from a distance,
over a prolonged period of time”

Jen Quayle, Knowsley Safari Park Veterinary surgeon

Initially data downloads from the boluses were attempted by driving up to the Eland whilst outside, however getting each individual to remain near enough to complete downloads proved difficult. Instead Jen used an alternative approach, by moving the Eland inside she was able to easily download at about 10-15 meters away. This is a larger download distance than we would normally expect, and this is likely to be due to the smaller body mass of Elands compared to cows.

Using the eCow handset. Photo credit: Jen Quayle

Jen hopes to use the boluses to see the effect of the change from winter to summer diets on the reticulo-rumen pH and the exciting initial results are just emerging. The eCow bolus can be used to continually measure the reticulo-rumen pH in any ruminants which are over 80 kg, more information about the boluses is available here. To find out more about how our boluses can be used as a diagnostic tool, contact us today. 

We would like to thank Jen Quayle and her team working at Knowsley Safari Park for their feedback and advice on the use of eCow boluses in antelope.