It is time to get your high-mag blocks and high-mag minerals in your fields!
The grass is turning green at an alarming rate around here.
When you see the grass changing color you know it’s time to bulk up on the magnesium.
Grass Tetany is also sometimes called “grass staggers,” “winter tetany” or “magnesium tetany.” Whatever you call it, you don’t want it. It is most common in springtime and lactating animals are at the highest risk.
Grass tetany can effect dairy cattle, beef cattle, goats and sheep.
Grass Tetany is an illness caused by an increase in potassium and decrease in magnesium. Symptoms include staggering, excitability, involuntary muscle contractions, convulsions, frothing at the mouth and vocalization. Tetany can strike quickly, leaving the animal dead within hours of the onset of symptoms. It can be difficult to detect and treat.
-Southern States (source)
The best way to treat grass tetany is to prevent it before it happens.
Grass Tetany most often occurs in spring when the grass turns green. It can occur at other times, but is most prevalent in spring. The new lush grass has unusually high amounts of potassium in it and not enough magnesium. Adding to the problem is the fact that potassium displaces magnesium, so even though there is some magnesium in the new grass – the potassium is kicking it’s butt.
To prevent our animal friends from experiencing a Fresh-Grass-Induced problem we need get plenty of magnesium in them.
According to my research, the prevention is the same no matter the breed of livestock: magnesium.
The shape, scale and application may look different for goats and sheep. Please contact your vet to determine the correct approach for your animals.
When it comes to cows – I have some experience & can tell you exactly how we handle the beautiful, green spring grass around here!
You have several options to get magnesium into your beloved bovines.
PROVIDE MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS
- High Mag Blocks – You have probably seen salt blocks or mineral blocks before. High mag blocks are the same concept, except they are high in magnesium. This is a super simple way to toss some magnesium into your fields. I do not think this is necessarily “enough” for all cows. I don’t know why….. My hunch is that the block form makes it a bit harder to consume – instead of just slurping up the mineral, they are licking the block or chewing on it. I can imagine that not as much magnesium is going to get into the cow.
- High Mag Loose Minerals – These are like the normal all-inclusive mineral products, they just contain a higher ratio of magnesium. If you use this solution you will not need to continue your current mineral program – this will provide all the minerals your cow needs & an extra high dose of magnesium.
- Magnesium Mineral– You can also opt to provide loose a loose magnesium mineral in addition to your current mineral program. This will be a bag of just magnesium (for the most part)- it is not meant to provide any other mineral needs. If you go with this option you will need to continue your current mineral program in addition to the magnesium.
I am no expert on cattle diets but I can tell you my experience.
The blocks are really fun to have in the fields. My cows think they are lollipops. They lick them, they roll them, they play with them. I like watching my cows enjoy something that is also good for them to be chomping on. This is the main reason I give my girls (and fellas) the high mag blocks.
For my cows, I don’t feel like the blocks are enough. I provide some magnesium loose minerals in addition to the high mag blocks.
Some other things you can do to help your cows through spring:
KEEP FEEDING DRY HAY
Even when your pasture is growing so fast the cows can’t eat it all, you still should offer some hay (dried grass).
Pastures that contain a variety of grasses (and even some legumes) can decrease the chances of Grass Tetany. When you seed your pasture, consider adding some clover or alfalfa into the field.
TIME IT RIGHT
In order to minimize problems, don’t turn your cows onto a fresh green pasture first thing in the morning. It is best to move cattle onto new ground late morning or afternoon when the dew is gone.
Grass Tetany is not hard to prevent –
- be sure you have plenty of good, quality magnesium available to your herd 24/7
- watch your animals closely
If you notice anyone in your herd wobbling, shaking or struggling – call the vet.