Preventing Grass Tetany This Spring

The fields and pastures are beginning to green up and as exciting as this season of growth is, it can also bring about unforeseen dangers for your cattle operation. Grass tetany is a metabolic disorder that results in low concentrations of magnesium in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid that is not only very hard to detect but can be fatal, if left untreated. So to help producers keep their herds in tip top shape, we are running down the basics of this disease and what you can do to prevent it.

Grass tetany has many precipitating factors. Most commonly it occurs when cattle are grazing on rapidly growing, lush, green grass. An early growing season results in grasses with a greater water content, which dilutes the minerals and nutrients in those grasses. Because of this, cows may not be able to consume enough grass on a dry matter basis to meet the needed nutritional requirements. Often, these grasses end up high in potassium and nitrogen which can interfere with magnesium absorption.

Biologically, cows can only store small amounts of magnesium in their bones and soft tissue. They lose magnesium in milk, urine, and digestive secretions and unless those magnesium levels are replaced, grass tetany can set in. Older cows are more susceptible to grass tetany, as they may be unable to mobilize magnesium from their bones. Cows in early lactation are the most susceptible due to the higher demand for magnesium in the milk.

Symptoms of grass tetany can be subtle and are often overlooked until it is too late for treatment to work. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Disorientation and Staggering
  • Weakness
  • Convulsions
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Behavioral changes
    • Excitement (galloping, bellowing, face/ear twitching)
    • Continuously nervous or alert
    • Laying down and getting up frequently

Stress is also a leading cause of grass tetany outbreaks. Factors like wind, rain, winter storms or exposure, sudden changes in feed and/or feed quality, sudden lowering of temperature, or conditions like transport or yarding.

Grass tetany can be hard to detect, but with the right added vitamins and minerals and a keen eye for potential symptoms, you can ensure it doesn’t cost your herd any losses this spring. Overall, good nutrition through high-quality feed and added minerals and nutrients, especially magnesium, can help prevent grass tetany from affecting your herd. Our variety options of High Mag mineral tubs and High Mag loose mineral mixes can help ensure that your cow herd is getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy during this crucial time. Be sure to take a look at our products page to learn more about how we can help your operation prevent grass tetany and maintain good nutrition year-round.

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