Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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GRASS TETANY (STAGGERS)

In parts of the United States over the last 18 to 24 months, we've experienced extreme drought or unusually large amounts of rain. In Texas, we had 18+ months of sub-normal rainfall and very high temperatures. In the spring of 2012, we are now having unseasonal rain and alternating cool and hot weather patterns. Pastures are lush and goats are dying when producers don't limit access and provide minerals high in magnesium to counteract toxic reactions.

Grass tetany, also known as grass staggers and hypomagnesemia, is a metabolic disease in goats. Although often called wheat pasture poisoning, grass tetany is not restricted to wheat fields. This disease usually occurs in springtime in lush pastures, but it can also appear following cool rainy weather in the fall when cool season grasses and green cereal grains are beginning to grow.

Like prussic acid poisoning and nitrate poisoning, grass tetany kills quickly. Death often occurs within two to three hours of onset of the disease. It is basically a magnesium deficiency caused by an imbalance of potassium with calcium and magnesium that usually requires veterinary assistance to treat and producer involvement to prevent.Symptoms include wide-eyed staring, muscle twitching in the ears and flanks, hypersensitivity to sound and touch, staggering, foaming at the mouth, and convulsions. Goats most at risk are lactating does (milk production involves the utilization of lots of magnesium) and older goats. Least at risk are young goats, wethers, dry does, and younger adult bucks.

Soil conditions and fertilization practices can contribute to grass tetany. Soils and fertilizers high in potassium and nitrogen can produce plants that contain high potassium and low calcium and magnesium levels that can suppress magnesium absorption. Mineral interaction is complex and a field of study unto itself.

If the producer can obtain veterinary assistance quickly, the proper treatment involves slow intraveneous (IV) administration of calcium and magnesium. This is not something that the average goat producer can do. In an emergency when a vet is not available, the producer can try to save the goat by treating it as if it had "milk fever" ( hypocalcemia) with repeated dosing of CMPO or MFO orally. See this writer's article on Hypocalcemia on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.Prevention is the key. Producers should offer quality hay free choice to goats that have access to pastures that can cause grass tetany, and producers must make sure that goats have eaten hay before letting them out onto lush pasture each day. Goats should also receive a quality loose mineral properly formulated with higher levels of magnesium and offered on a free-choice basis.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH Lohn, Texas 3/9/12

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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