Preventing grass tetany | Living the Country Life

Preventing grass tetany

Grass tetany is treatable if a veterinarian is contacted as soon as you see early signs.
photo courtesy of the USDA

New pasture growth in the spring is highly nutritious, but it can also be deadly to lactating cows. Owners need to closely monitor their animals for a condition known as grass tetany. Extension animal scientist Darrell Rankins, Jr., at Auburn University, says grass tetany is a nutritional problem in lactating cows caused by consuming high quality, cool-season grasses.

"Because of the high amount of nitrogen and potassium that is in the forage and all the dynamics that take place in the stomach of the cow, magnesium absorption is reduced," says Rankins. "The problem manifests itself as an animal laying down on its side and paddling its legs. It's a tetany, like tetanus, and the muscles become very rigid and then they die if it's not caught very quickly and treated."

Grass tetany is treatable if a veterinarian is contacted as soon as you see early signs. Those include nervousness, excess salivation, muscle tremors, and rapid breathing. The condition can be prevented by feeding extra magnesium in the spring.

"Most mineral supplements contain very little magnesium, a lot of times zero, and maybe 1%-or-2%. But a high magnesium mineral usually contains 6%-12% magnesium," says Rankins. "Now the problem is, it's not very palatable. The magnesium oxide they put in as the source of magnesium is fairly bitter tasting and not very palatable to animals. So typically there's some flavor enhancers added."

You can also encourage cows to consume the mineral by mixing magnesium oxide with equal amounts of ground corn and salt by weight. Rankins says cattle need 1 to 2 ounces of magnesium per day -- and make sure they eat it. Daily consumption is important because magnesium isn't stored in the body for very long.

Radio interview source: Darrell Rankins, Jr., Extension Animal Scientist, Auburn University

Listen here: Preventing grass tetany


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