Reduce the Risk of Staggers this Spring

Grass staggers, tetany, hypomagnesaemia, call it what you like but spring magnesium deficiency in ruminants can be both fatal and expensive.

Although it seems that the snow has barely melted, grass will soon start to grow, when stock are turned out the issue of staggers will need to be managed.

The problem

Fast-growing spring pasture is low in magnesium, highly digestible and high in moisture. This, together with less supplementary feed used at grass means that magnesium intake is reduced. To make matters worse, magnesium absorption in the animal’s gut can be compromised by high fertiliser use, particularly when potassium is added to the pasture. If the challenge of low magnesium supply is not enough, stress can also reduce blood magnesium levels making a dangerous situation critical.

The problem of staggers is mainly seen in but not confined to lactating livestock during the spring grazing period with the risk period lasting anywhere between three and ten weeks. Animals do not store magnesium in the body and clinical hypomagnesaemia will occur when the losses of magnesium through the milk exceed the dietary intake allowing blood levels to fall below a critical level. Classic symptoms of nervousness, twitching, stiffness, staggering and collapse can follow although many cows showing no signs of the deficiency will have reduced milk yield.

What can be done?

One remedy would be to be extra-vigilant by constantly monitoring livestock for the onset of hypomagnesaemia and to administer subcutaneous magnesium sulphate injection at the first signs. Needless to say this is not a practical approach, nor would it prevent reoccurrence so methods of prevention should be used as part of the dietary management of herd or flock in the spring months. The options available to provide supplementary magnesium include boluses or alternatively by feeding a high level to livestock in the form of a dietetic feed. This can be in a number of forms including cobs, high magnesium cake, liquid feeds and mineral feeding stuffs. It should be stressed that none of these methods are a guarantee on their own and to further reduced the risk, should be fed in conjunction with readily available energy and a source of long fibre.

Megalix Quattro Mag

One popular way of feeding supplemental magnesium is via a palatable molassed mineral lick such as Megalix Quattro Mag. With four sources of magnesium including AGMA calcined magnesite, Megalix Quattro Mag ticks the boxes for free choice feeding in the spring grazing period. With two slow releasing sources of magnesium and two quick releasing sources, Megalix Quattro Mag gives livestock both immediate and sustained protection against staggers.

AGMA calcined magnesite is regarded by many as the best magnesite on the market, with independent research at Glasgow University Veterinary School confirming that AGMA has superior bioavailability of magnesium, highest rumen solubility and the most consistent product quality.

Megalix Quattro Mag is available in 20kg and 80kg tubs and provides livestock with 24 hour protection against staggers.