Grass tetany, commonly known as grass staggers, can often rear its head after an increase in grass growth on farms.

The recent dry conditions and lack of rain has resulted in a stall in grass growth on many farms across the country. However, the rain has come and growth rates appear to be improving on farms.

During periods of high growth rates like some farms are currently experiencing grass tetany can occur.

Severe cases can have an impact on the future production of cows – any disease/disorder that impacts a cow’s performance should not be over looked.

The symptoms of grass tetany generally occur rapidly and usually impact the animal’s nervous system.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe muscle contractions;
  • Hyperness;
  • Frothing at the mouth;
  • Staggering while walking or standing;
  • Body tremors;
  • Visual distress;
  • Irregular and loud heartbeat.

So as growth rates pick up on farms it may be prudent to keep an eye on your stock for any early signs of tetany.

Grass tetany

The best way of preventing grass tetany is to supplement the animal’s diet with magnesium (Mg).

A source of Mg should be included in a cow’s diet at all times of the year. Cows should receive 30g of Mg/day to prevent grass tetany.

There are a number of methods to ensure cows are getting Mg, with feeding it to cows in concentrates probably the most common on Irish farms.

Other methods include a solution in the water, a bolus or providing licks.

Feeding Mg in the form of concentrates and/or a bolus are the safest methods, as the farmer can ensure the cows are being supplemented.

Using licks or a solution in the water can be a little more risky, as there is no way to ensure cows are getting enough or even using the sources.

Only some cows will use lick buckets and on days when it is wet or there is access to other sources of water, cows may not be drinking from the troughs.