9 May 1997

Staggers alert from DANIvet herds

RAPIDLY deteriorating weather means dairy and suckler cows are at increased risk from staggers.

Additional magnesium supplies and the provision of shelter are vital, warns DANI vet Maurice McCoy.

For dairy cows, he advocates continuing to feed high magnesium concentrates. Buffer feeding silage or hay to slow the passage of grass through the cow will allow greater magnesium absorption.

"To minimise stress, cows should be turned out into sheltered fields – or kept in overnight if the weather is particularly bad. Additional magnesium in the form of bullets, pasture dusting with calcined magnesite or adding soluble magnesium salts to water troughs may help."

Suckler cows – particularly those which have calved during the last month or two – are particularly at risk, warns Mr McCoy.

"It is difficult to ensure they have adequate magnesium intake. Feeding high magnesium concentrates or using magnesium bullets are good options."

He warns that the hardened magnesium blocks used by many suckler producers may not allow sufficient intake. "There can be a 30 or 40 fold difference in intake. I wouldnt advise blocks unless theres nothing else available."

One of the best options for sucklers is molasses or pot ale syrup with added calcined magnesite fed in ball or wheel licks.

, he says.