Is grass tetany a threat to your herd? It could be if you’re dealing with cool conditions and lush spring forage growth. It is what we call “washy” grass. This new growth is very high in water and nitrogen. It can also be fairly high in potassium. Fields that have been fertilized with nitrogen may actually be even more imbalanced. The big problem is, these forages can easily be low in magnesium, and without adequate magnesium, livestock are susceptible to grass tetany.
How Do You Protect Your Stock?
Pastures with a good grass-legume mix, generally at least 30 percent, are normally a little better than monocultures of grass because legumes carry more magnesium than grasses.
Grass tetany is generally more of a problem on fields that were grazed short last fall leaving very little or no dry matter behind to mix with the washy spring grass, and also in fields that have had early spring applications of nitrogen. Once the forages start catching up to where they should be for this time of the year, and start maturing more, dry matter will increase in the forage, and nutrients will be more in balance.
I’ve watched cows, after two or three days in a lush spring field, start going to fence rows looking for some dry matter. If they really are needing some dry matter and it is available, most will seek it out and consume it eventually. This dry matter early on may be from left over forage from last year, leaves off trees, and even some twigs. You can help by having some hay available for grazing livestock to eat as dry matter along with the lush spring forage can also help keep the grazing animal’s rumen in balance.
Feeding a high-magnesium mineral under these cool, wet, lush forage conditions is always a good practice. Lemenager recommends supplementing this mineral during times like these to make sure they are taking in enough. Magnesium is bitter and cows don’t like it, so additives can help improve intake. If salt is fed free choice at the same time as the high-mag mineral, they may not get enough magnesium to help prevent grass tetany.
Dr. Lemenager also commented that soybean hulls, either fed alone or as a mixture with corn gluten, would be a better choice than corn gluten alone. The hulls aren’t as high in protein, but provide a readily fermentable fiber (no starch) and the carbon chains to use the rumen degradable protein. He likes a 50:50 mix which runs about 17.5 percent crude protein and on a forage diet has almost the same energy value as corn without the starch that reduces rumen pH lowering fiber digestibility.
Keep on grazing!
Want more details on grass tetany, how it works, and the kind of threat it represents? Check out this article!