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Cattle require a steady intake of magnesium but their normal feeding may be disrupted by the current heavy rainfall. The deficiency is commonly known as grass staggers and often affects grazing cattle in spring, but can also affect over-wintered cows fed on silage.
George Caldow, Veterinary Investigation Officer at SAC Consulting, part of SRUC, said: “The condition leads to hyper-excitability, muscular spasms, convulsions, respiratory distress, collapse, and even death. Magnesium is essential for metabolism and the requirement increases at times of stress.
“Although cattle can withstand very low temperatures, they are less well adapted to continuous rain like we have had over the last four – five weeks,” comments George Caldow.
Most farmers have responded to the recent weather by ensuring their often dry, pregnant spring calvers, are well fed with big bale silage. Normally this is more than adequate to meet a cow’s energy requirements and to allow her to cope with the conditions, but can be insufficient to meet the cow’s specific requirements for some vital minerals and vitamins.
Mr Caldow said: “This continual drain on their heat reserves when coupled with a deficiency of magnesium can result in magnesium tetany. While producers are aware of the risk of tetany to cows suckling calves at grass in the spring, it is not commonly expected in the middle of winter. Our advice is for all producers with out-wintered stock, particularly cows, to ensure they are adequately supplemented with a suitable magnesium supply daily.”
For further information contact George Caldow on 01835 822 456, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.