Death By Magnesium Deficiency? It’s a Crime!

Livestock are at heightened risk of fatal grass staggers this spring following significant leaching of magnesium from pasture over the last few months.The condition is often a problem for dairy, beef and sheep producers at the start of Spring as early grass growth is often low in magnesium but the record rainfall in many areas over the last year could make the situation critical for many in 2013.

“Unfortunately, the disease is almost impossible to treat once it takes hold,” says Agrimin’s James McCulloch.“The onset of symptoms is generally very rapid and for most farmers, the earliest indication that they have a magnesium problem is a dead animal. With this in mind careful management and magnesium supplementation is essential this year.”

Magnesium should be provided to stock prior to the spring grass flush and if possible cattle should be brought in at night for the first week, especially in cold, wet and windy weather.Silage and any concentrate feeding should be reduced gradually in the run-up to turn-out and the use of potassium rich fertilisers should be delayed until later in the year.

“Watch out for poor weather,” James McCulloch advises. “Staggers cases increase dramatically on wet, windy days and frosty nights and it might be worth considering a belt and braces approach to supplementation by using a bolus and free access products.”

Rumbul magnesium bullets for cattle should be given 2 - 3 days prior to turn-out and will last 28 days providing a consistent supply of magnesium to cattle during this high risk period.

For Sheep the same points about providing magnesium before the Spring grass flush, avoiding potassium rich fertilisers early on and watching out for cold weather apply but there are other considerations too, he says.

“If lambing indoors, supplement with magnesium prior to turn-out and if lambing outdoors, supplements should be provided to coincide with the period 2 - 6 weeks post lambing.

“Try and keep ewes with lambs aged 2 - 6 weeks on the same pasture as moving them can actually trigger staggers,” James McCulloch advises. Rumbul magnesium bullets for sheep should be given 2 - 3 days prior to turn-out or, again, to coincide with the period 2 - 6 weeks post lambing. These boluses will last for 21 days.

“There’s a real threat on many farms this year and the problem is you won’t know it until you actually start seeing fatalities. For the relatively low cost of supplementation it simply isn’t worth taking any risks,” James McCulloch concludes.