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Grass Tetany

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Date:  February 26, 2021
Agent:  Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke center. Today’s topic is Grass Tetany.

Grass tetany is a season specific metabolic disturbance of cattle that occurs when cattle are grazing lush vegetation. It occurs mainly when cows are in transition from winter rations to grazing lush new growth pastures, but can occur in winter when cows are consuming poor quality hay, or grazing small grains. The disturbance seems to arise from low levels of magnesium in forages. While magnesium deficiency is the culprit, some studies suggest that a phosphorous deficiency may prohibit plants from utilizing available magnesium. Either way, cattle are affected.

Signs of tetany include nervousness, and in coordination, such as staggering or falling. Cattle may be easily excited during this period, and muscle tremors and seizures become evident, with coma and death following.

There are several ways producers can help to prevent of limit losses from grass tetany. Producers can limit early grazing, when grass is lush and young. Top-dressing pastures with magnesium is another option. Dolomitic limestone is a major source of magnesium. Also, feeding cattle a good amount of roughage 7-10 days before turning out to lush pasture is an option. Most producers will opt to feed a magnesium supplement to cattle prior to and during spring grazing, until tetany danger has passed.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke center. If you would like more information, please call us at 764-9480.