29 March 2002

Action for staggers

STAGGERS could be a real problem at turnout this year because grass is already growing well, making preventative measures for susceptible cattle essential.

The danger period for staggers is 7-14 days post-turnout, particularly in older cattle and fattening beef, says East Sussex-based vet Rob Drysdale. "Initial signs to watch for are a reluctance to come up to feed, lack of reaction to your presence and apparent blindness. Perhaps within 12 hours, magnesium deficient animals will be down and thrashing on the ground."

Treatment must be swift, but carefully done as cows in this state have no control over their muscles and may be blind.

"A bottle of magnesium sulphate No9 should be given under the skin, not into a vein, and another given as a drench to prevent death and help cows recover more quickly. It is best to keep a few bottles close at hand during the risk period," he adds.

Prevention is possible, says Mr Drysdale. "Try to restrict fresh grazing in the first few weeks, offer big bale silage or hay and do not move them. Stress is usually the final push needed for staggers to emerge, such as a cold night or getting in between a cow and calf.

"Magnesium crystals can be added to water troughs or licks provided, but where cattle are known to be susceptible to staggers it is better to give a bolus two or three days before turnout to guarantee intake. These cost £3.60-£4/head." &#42