4 April 1997

High-Mg grasses to cut staggers

GRASSES high in magnesium should be commercially available within the next few years.

According to David Johnston, forage grass breeder at the Northern Ireland Horticultural and Plant Breeding Station at Loughgall, Co. Armagh, grasses which are higher in magnesium than currently available varieties could reduce the risk of staggers.

"High levels of sub-clinical magnesium deficiency have been detected in blood samples submitted for routine brucellosis sampling. At sub-clinical levels – where the deficiency is not apparent – milk production and butterfat content are reduced," he warns.

The high magnesium varieties bred at Loughgall are 40-50% higher in magnesium than currently available varieties, but yield about 2% less than the current standards, so are unlikely to gain a place on Recommended Lists under the current testing.


"Producers are starting to ask for these speciality varieties, and are less worried about ensuring top yields. Over the next few years the testing system will evolve to meet that need so varieties such as these can be marketed," says Dr Johnston.