Don’t Kill your Cattle!
USDA released on April 21st its weekly rating of pasture and range conditions, showing that
Pennsylvania had an average of 3 days suitable for field work again this week. Not exactly off to a good start considering we’re almost into May! Spring field work is underway in most parts of the state. Soil moistures have remained fairly constant since last week with majority of the fields having adequate moisture.
"Adequate"? If they mean some are so dry it’s like a sand box and others are so wet you need a tank to pull a plow through them? Yeah I guess that would be "Adequate".
Temperatures ranged from 75* in South Central PA to only 25* in North Central PA. Winter Wheat and Hay conditions are still fairly good. Apple trees are finally starting to bloom in the Southern Counties, but the cherry & pear trees up in Bradford County are just starting to open up their buds. This is about 3 weeks later than they did last year. Looking to the week ahead, temperatures in Pennsylvania will range from the high 40’s to the high 60’s with most over overnight temperatures finally above freezing except in the northern tier of PA where we’re still dealing with morning lows near 30*. There may be a few showers Tuesday – Friday of this coming week which will set us "Ridge Runners" back another week or two from getting into the fields to get them fit for planting. Field activities in the Southern Counties for the upcoming week include spraying for insects, weed control, applying fertilizer, and readying equipment for first cutting hay which usually commences the weekend before Memorial day.
Pasture conditions are an important driver for cow slaughter rates during the summer months (the other being the financial state of your operation). So far, US beef cow slaughter rates have remained at relatively high levels as producers respond to very high prices for market cows. The improvement in cow prices has helped reduce some of the debt burden incurred during this most recent Polar vortex of a winter that we thought would never end. The USDA report for the week ending May 2nd showed that 63% of pastures and ranges in the 48 states were considered to be in good or excellent condition.
But with the excellent pastures and rangelands of spring comes the potential of grass tetany.
Grass tetany will once again become a major concern for cattle producers this spring, if preventative measures are not in place. The lack of magnesium intake by cattle is the cause of grass tetany. Cows are most vulnerable when grazing lush green forages either low in magnesium and/or high in potassium after being accustomed to being fed dry hay all winter. High levels of potassium will interfere with magnesium absorption by the animal. Therefore, pastures fertilized with products like potash, chicken litter and ammonium sulfate will increase the chance of grass tetany. I don’t know why you would fertilize your pastures with any of these item’s but it’s done by many producers which is why I thought I’d share the pitfalls of using these items.
Grass tetany generally occurs most commonly in early spring when cattle are grazing lush forages. Cattle most susceptible are those calving during this time of the growing season. A common indicator of tetany, is that your cattle will appear nervous and muscles can be seen twitching. As the condition progresses, animals will have problems walking, will eventually go down and will normally lie on one side and thrash about.
If the condition is not corrected, death may occur within three hours.
Since nothing can be done to control the weather, the best alternative to prevent grass tetany is to feed a complete mineral with adequate levels of magnesium. We have a free-choice Mol-Mag mineral block always available for our cattle relatively close to where their water source is. Most high magnesium minerals will contain 14 percent magnesium. At this level, cattle will receive the needed 12-15 grams per head per day to prevent grass tetany. Your local Feed-mill should carry other supplemental tubs and blocks containing adequate levels of magnesium to prevent grass tetany.
If you have an acute case of grass tetany, a sterile solution containing magnesium and calcium is given intravenously to the cow. If you’ve never given an I.V. to your cattle before, please contact your closest Large Animal vet or someone who is familiar with the procedure. I realize that in some parts of the country, especially the North-East, Large Animal Vet’s may be 100-200 miles away. But an I.V. must be done slowly to prevent rapid increases in blood calcium levels, which can cause heart failure.
The best way to stop grass tetany is to prevent it.
To accomplish this, provide a high magnesium mineral to cattle beginning early January. Cattle are amazing at being able to limit the amount of mineral intake based off of their current available forages, but the minerals need to be available for them to consume starting around February in most parts of the country.
I would also encourage you to visually inspect your cattle often when first turning them out on new pastures
We generally will leave them on a new pasture for 1 hour a day for the 1st week, 2 hours a day the 2nd and by the 3rd week they can stay on pasture with free-choice dry hay to supplement their lush forage intake for the rest of the growing season.
Now get out there and GRAZE!!!