November 2013 Issue



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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 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.

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

Prevention is the key. Producers should offer quality hay free choice to goats that have access to pastures that can cause grass tetany. 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


Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


My thanks to Kent Mills, goat nutritionist at HiPro Feeds in Texas for fact-checking these articles as they relate to nutritional issues and to Dr. Johnny Needham of the Coleman Texas Vet Clinic for making sure that I properly described symptoms and possible treatment protocols.

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

Bending Tree Ranch in Arkansas would like to wish you a
Happy Thanksgiving!


TexMasters™, Myotonics as well as TMG™ quality Myotonics.

2013 offspring as well as breeding aged does and adult bucks for sale.


We have one male livestock guardian pup left. Both parents work here at Bending Tree Ranch. Sire is fullblood Anatolian and dam is ¾ Karakachan ¼ Pyr. Excellent working dogs.

Pat Cotten 501-679-4936
Bending Tree Ranch located near Greenbrier, Arkansas

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