Suckler cows and calves© Tim Scrivener

Farmers are being warned to monitor lactating suckler cows for magnesium deficiency at turnout to prevent grass staggers.

Farmers can easily manage the disease by assessing and managing on-farm risks, explains David Thornton, Rumenco’s technical manager.

“Magnesium is not easily mobilised from stores in the body, hence the importance of nutrition management to ensure adequate blood magnesium levels of 2-3mg/100ml of blood are maintained,” he says.

“In addition, rapidly growing spring grass generally has a low magnesium content of 0.1-0.2% in dry matter.

See also: Spray your way out of grass staggers

“These factors, combined with the added challenge that grazing has a low dry matter content, can lead to it passing through the rumen quicker.”

The extra stresses put on the animals from lactation and turnout can result in very low levels of available magnesium in the blood, resulting in clinical symptoms.

To avoid the risk of staggers, Mr Thornton suggests providing cattle with long fibre sources, such as hay or silage, which pass more slowly through the rumen.

“Farmers should also ensure cattle have access to a magnesium supplementation to alleviate low magnesium levels at spring pastures,” he says.