April 21, 2009

Beef producers worry about grass tetany

U.S. beef nutrition specialists say beef producers should expand their knowledge about grass tetany and bloat.

Purdue University extension specialist Ron Lemenager said the seasonal weather shift from cold to warm conditions presents some challenges and producers should manage their herds to prevent the two conditions.

Grass tetany, also known as grass staggers or hypomagnesaemia, is a magnesium deficiency and when animals are deficient in magnesium they become highly excitable, which necessitates increased safety measures when moving them.

Grass tetany incidents tend to increase in soils with higher potassium and nitrogen levels, Lemenager said. These are soils where maybe a lot of manure has been applied, causing a mineral imbalance. If suspicious, have your soil tested and forage analyzed. Forage containing less than 0.2 percent magnesium, more than 3 percent potassium and more than 4 percent nitrogen are likely to create grass tetany problems.

Pasture bloat is a condition in which an animal is unable to get rid of gas that is a normal part of rumen fermentation.

The gas is not a free gas, he said. It's actually entrapped in foam bubbles and the animal can't get rid of it, which causes extreme discomfort and can suffocate the animal.

Pastures that are a 50-50 mix of legume/grass can help prevent both grass tetany and pasture bloat, Lemenager said.