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Nashville, Ark. – Grass tetany in Arkansas normally occurs in February, March, and
April. It is caused by an abnormally low level of magnesium in a cow’s body. This
imbalance can be indirectly caused by heavy fertilization. A heavy potassium (potash)
fertilizer application can decrease the dietary absorption of magnesium in the cow’s
gastrointestinal system. Young and rapidly growing forages usually have an increased
amount of potassium. Typically, this disease will occur in older lactating cows, but
it can also be seen in cows with poor body condition scores or cows that are over-conditioned.
A moist, cool spring and stress may also play a role in this disease. Symptoms may
range from slight changes in behavior to death. Early in the disease, the affected
cow may have a decreased appetite, decreased milk production, a tendency to stay away
from the herd, increased alertness, or a stiff or unsteady gait. As the disease progresses,
cattle may become recumbent or exhibit muscle tremors, an increased heart rate, and
an increased breathing rate. If the disease is left untreated at this stage, the cow
will likely die.
Correcting the magnesium imbalance is the most important part of treating grass tetany.
If the clinical signs are mild, magnesium can be corrected with approximately 150ml
of a 20 percent magnesium sulfate solution. This must be given subcutaneously in several
injection sites. If the clinical signs are more severe, a veterinarian should be involved.
Grass tetany can be prevented in a few different ways. You can limit the amount of
time cattle grazes fresh pasture. Let them fill up on hay before turning them out
to pasture. You may provide special high magnesium mineral blocks or loose minerals.
They should have magnesium for two weeks before turning them out on fresh pastures
to make sure their magnesium levels are adequate. Remove any other salt blocks from
the pasture to make sure they are getting enough of the high magnesium minerals. You
may mix loose magnesium minerals with molasses or ground corn to aid in consumption.
For more information on grass tetany, call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517
or view some helpful fact sheets on our website www.uaex.uada.edu. The Cooperative
Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
By Dawson Bailey County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Dawson Bailey County Extension Agent - AgricultureU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service421 N. Main Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.