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Grass tetany is serious problem

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By Rick Greenwell


This article is a repeat from last month but I wanted to use it again because grass tetany has become a serious problem. 

We have had several conversations with producers the past few weeks who have been dealing with this.
Early spring is the primary time that farmers experience problems and loss of livestock to the forage related disorder known as grass tetany, grass staggers, lactation tetany, or hypomagnesemia. Grass tetany is a metabolic disorder caused by reduced magnesium (Mg) levels of Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) in the soil can increase the risk of grass tetany.  It generally affects older, lactating cows but is also seen in dry cows, young cows, and, in rare cases, growing calves.  Young cool season grasses and small grains are commonly associated with this disorder. Grass tetany is most frequent in the spring but may occur in the fall and winter when these forages start growing rapidly or when cereal grain forages are fed.
Symptoms may consist of nervousness, lack of coordination, muscular spasms, staggering, convulsions, coma, and death.  If there is a suspicion of grass tetany, a veterinarian should be called immediately.
Feeding high magnesium or high “Mag” mineral supplements, containing magnesium oxide, is the preferred method to reduce the occurrence of grass tetany.  High “Mag” mineral mixes are available at most feed stores.  Producers can also mix their own by adding the appropriate amount of magnesium oxide to another supplement or feed where the intake is controlled, i.e. feeding in or with 1 to 2 lbs. of corn or other by-product. Livestock should be fed this supplement starting in December or January and continued until spring time when temperatures are consistently above 60°F. To provide adequate amounts, 20 g of magnesium must be provided and consumed daily. Free-choice minerals should contain 12 percen to 15 percent  magnesium (from magnesium oxide) and cattle need to consume 4 ounces of the mineral. It is important to monitor intake to be sure cattle are consuming adequate amounts each day to provide protection against grass tetany. Lactation double Mg need and early plants do not take up Mg fast enough to provide adequate amounts.  
The season for grass tetanyis around the corner. To reduce health problems and loss of livestock to this disease, it is important to provide a quality, “high Mag” mineral or magnesium oxide containing supplement.