Farmers Warned of Heavy Rain Effects on Cattle Nutrition

SCOTLAND, UK - Experts from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are alerting farmers that in light of this winter’s extreme weather, there is an increased risk of their cows suffering from magnesium deficiency.
calendar icon 11 January 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

The condition is commonly known as grass staggers and often affects grazing cattle in spring, but magnesium tetany can also affect overwintered cows fed on silage.

“The condition leads to hyper-excitability, muscular spasms, convulsions, respiratory distress, collapse, and even death,” said Veterinary Investigation Officer George Caldow of SAC Consulting, part of SRUC.

“Magnesium is essential for metabolism and the requirement increases at times of stress.

"Furthermore cattle rely on a steady intake of magnesium and heavy rainfall can interfere with the normal food intake of cows so that magnesium intake becomes critical.”

Most farmers have responded to the recent appalling weather by ensuring their often dry, pregnant spring calvers, are well fed with big bale silage.

Normally this is more than adequate to meet a cow’s energy requirements and to allow her to cope with the conditions, but can often be insufficient to meet the cow’s specific requirements for some vital minerals and vitamins.

“Although cattle are well designed to withstand very low temperatures, they are less well adapted to continuous rain which is what they have had to face over the last four – five weeks,” commented George Caldow.

“This continual drain on their heat reserves when coupled with a deficiency of magnesium can result in magnesium tetany.

"While all producers are well aware of the risk of tetany to cows suckling calves at grass in the spring, it is not commonly expected in the middle of winter! Our advice is therefore for all producers with outwintered stock, particularly cows, to ensure they are adequately supplemented with a suitable magnesium supply daily.”

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