13 October 2000

Staggers on steep rise after a wet autumn

WET weather, late fertiliser applications and greater reliance on grazed grass are contributing to a recent spate of staggers cases.

Although suckler cows and dry cows are often susceptible to the condition in wet autumns, milking cows are also succumbing this year, says independent vet consultant Tony Andrews.

"Grass growth has been good recently which means cows may be receiving less concentrate than usual. This means their magnesium supply could be low."

Warm and wet weather in the past couple of weeks has resulted in grass with a high moisture content and low magnesium level. Fertiliser applied during dry weather will have been rapidly absorbed following rain, which exacerbates the problem, he says.

"Fertiliser potassium, and to some extent nitrogen reduce magnesium uptake by cattle. Cold weather and moving fields may stress cows, also making them more susceptible to staggers."

Offering calcined magnesite sprinkled on silage, a high magnesium concentrate or minerals helps prevent staggers, says Dr Andrews. "But offering them isnt enough, you must ensure cattle eat them. Also reduce stress by providing shelter during cold weather."

Bloat is also proving to be a problem, adds Dr Andrews. "Wet grass and clover containing high levels of soluble nitrogen may lead to bloat, unless cattle are fed silage or straw before going out."

But susceptibility depends on what other feed cattle are receiving.

"Provide cattle with silage or straw before they go out, restrict grazing using electric fencing or limiting grazing time. Vets can supply a drench for cattle with bloat."