By Justin Crocheck, Key Cooperative Senior Cattle Consultant
A delayed spring has put your cattle at risk. Cold and snowy weather one week and 80 degree weather the next week has put us in the path of the perfect storm. The calendar says that it is May, but the grass is telling us it is early April at best. The muddy lots have forced us to push our cow-calf pairs out to the pasture for a healthier environment for the pair. Some veterinarians have been treating more cattle than usual for grass tetany this year and I wanted to review grass tetany and what you can do in an effort to prevent it.
Grass tetany is a serious condition due to low blood levels of magnesium in cattle. It occurs most often when cattle are grazing on young lush grass that is growing very rapidly. Grass tetany is often confused with milk fever. The one way to tell them apart is that symptoms of milk fever occur within hours of calving and grass tetany symptoms take a week or more to develop. Most animals with grass tetany are never noticed until a producer finds them dead. Signs to look for are; nervousness, lack of coordination, staggering, falling, severe muscle contractions, and seizures. If symptoms are not recognized soon enough they can result in coma and death. What are the things that you can do as a producer to prevent grass tetany? The first thing to do is to avoid grazing rapidly growing young lush grass pastures. Another is to feed roughage at least for the first 2 weeks of pasture green up to allow the grass to get taller and give the magnesium the time to make it from the soil to the plant. The third thing is to check cattle at least twice a day when first turned out on grass. The most important thing to do is to provide supplemental magnesium to the cattle. This supplementation is available through our Wind & Rain 4CP Mag loose mineral program or Ignite Magnesium Tubs. I recommend that these early season minerals/tubs be available to grass cattle for at least the first thirty days of green up.