January 2010
Feeding Facts

Feeding Facts

Happy New Year!! I hope you had a joyous holiday season and will have a prosperous 2010.

This is the time of the year some producers need to become aware of the potential of grass tetney concerns in cattle. The wet, mild fall and the possibility of a wet, mild winter have lead to cattle grazing green grass from North Alabama into the Florida Panhandle. Along with this green grass comes the classic problem of grass tetney. Grass tetney could become a major concern for cattle producers this spring, if preventative measures are not in place.

The lack of magnesium intake by cattle is the cause of grass tetney. Cows are most vulnerable when grazing lush green forages either low in magnesium and/or high in potassium. High levels of potassium will interfere with magnesium absorption by the animal. Therefore, pastures fertilized with products like potash, chicken litter and ammonium sulfate will increase the chance of grass tetney.

Grass tetney generally occurs in late winter and early spring when cattle are grazing lush forages. Cattle most susceptible are those calving during times of the year when tetney is most likely to occur. At the onset of tetney, animals will appear nervous and muscles can be seen twitching. As the condition progresses, animals will have problems walking, will eventually go down and will normally lie on one side and thrash about. If the condition is not corrected, death may occur within three hours.

Since nothing can be done to control the weather, the best alternative to prevent grass tetney is to feed a complete mineral with adequate levels of magnesium. Most high magnesium minerals will contain 14 percent magnesium. At this level, cattle will receive the needed 12-15 grams per head per day to prevent grass tetney.

Magnesium is very unpalatable, so you should only provide high magnesium minerals to cows 30 days prior to and through grass tetney season. During the other times of the year, provide a complete mineral containing at least three percent magnesium, along with at least six percent phosphorous. Your local Quality Co-op also carries other supplement tubs and blocks containing adequate levels of magnesium to prevent grass tetney.

If you have an acute case of grass tetney, a sterile solution containing magnesium and calcium is given intravenously to the cow. This must be done slowly to prevent rapid increases in blood calcium levels, which can cause heart failure.

The best way to stop grass tetney is to prevent it. To accomplish this, provide a high magnesium mineral to cattle beginning early January. Make sure the mineral is provided to cattle at all times and they are consuming an average of three ounces of mineral per head per day.

I would also encourage you to visually inspect your cattle often during this time of the year. Cattle during wet, cold conditions will require an increase in energy to maintain current body conditions. Cattle can lose several body condition scores over a short period of time during these conditions. A lower body condition will directly affect reproductive performance and growth of calves nursing these cows. If you find your herd is losing body condition, we will be glad to recommend products to help maintain or increase body condition scores.

If you have any questions about grass tetney or other mineral concerns, please contact your local Co-op or e-mail me at jimmyh@ alafarm.com. I can also be reached by phone at (256) 947-7886.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.