Watching Out for Grass Tetany

While the weather is warming and the grass is coming out of its winter of sleep, we have to keep our attentions on the health of the Angus herd. The cows are enjoying the lush grass as it rapidly grows and fills the grazing areas. Yet, this is the time when the cows can get too much fresh grass in their systems and upset the balance of their four stomachs. We check the herd daily looking for any issues.

Upset tummies in animals big and small not only cause discomfort, but also detracts from the overall health of the herd. Young calves don’t eat properly if they don’t feel well and won’t put on poundage they need during this growth spurt of their own. Mother cows don’t produce as much milk for their calves if they themselves are not strong and balanced. And the herd sire can get downright cranky if his belly is all out of sorts.

If left untreated, the upset could lead to severe diarrhea causing a deficiency of life-essential minerals known as grass tetany.

Be aware of the symptoms of grass tetany, which can quickly result in death if ignored. According to a recent article on grass tetany on Ag Answers, … “Look for muscles twitching in the flank, lack of muscle coordination, cows grazing away from the rest of the herd, irritability, wide eyes and staring, staggering, collapse, thrashing and coma.”

Here on farm we offer our herd free choice of minerals during the springtime that include magnesium and calcium along with salt. The animals tend to seek out the blocks when the grass pasture is growing quickly. The herd visits the mineral tubs frequently.

A recent article in Beef magazine described the need for careful observation of the herd and offering minerals during the spring.

…offering cattle a high-magnesium mineral mix one or two weeks before spring grazing begins and throughout the spring grazing period. He says a free-choice mix should contain 12%-15% magnesium from magnesium oxide. Mix with something like molasses to encourage cattle to eat it and offer approximately 4-ounce portions per cow through spring.

We also give the herd sweet hay to supplement their diet. The dry hay helps keep their gut flora in good condition and the herd happy. With diligence, grass tetany is a very rare occurrence.

 

Notation about these photos; These are all registered Black Angus. The red hair on some of the animals and especially noticeable on the one calf is what is left from their winter coats. The hair is dying and will eventually fall out and be replaced by their very black summer coat of fur. You may be able to see this process of wearing off the winter coat starting high up on the front shoulder of the calf.

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