A wet spring has resulted in the early grass growth curve being well ahead of the running average, causing an increased risk of grass staggers on beef, dairy and sheep farms.

As a result, Dr Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenco says magnesium supplementation is essential this year.

“Grazed grass is a great feed source but very low in dry matter. When conditions are wet, this further decreases dry matter intakes,” she says.

“This means some of the nutrient levels are diluted and it can be difficult for animals to eat sufficient levels, in particular, magnesium intake can be low resulting in magnesium deficiency, otherwise known as grass staggers, grass tetany or hypomagnesaemia.”

Other early grazing factors also contribute to magnesium deficiencies, including high potassium levels and rumen degradable proteins locking up magnesium availability.

Due to this season’s conditions, Dr Bond says the typical grass staggers window has been extended, with producers likely to have forage diluted in nutrient levels well into June.

Stock most at risk are late lambing ewes that are three to four weeks post-lambing and cattle that are four to eight weeks post-calving. These stock are at peak lactation and energy stores are stressed.

To mitigate the risk of grass staggers, Dr Bond recommends producers provide cattle and sheep with a palatable supplement.

“Magnesium is very bitter, so supplementation needs to be provided in a way that animals will consume it,” she said.

A large range of magnesium-enriched supplements that can be fed in molassed buckets, high energy feed blocks or as a soluble liquid to be added to drinking water, is however available from Rumenco.

Such magnesium buckets and blocks have been formulated to cover up the bitterness and increase intake while also offering additional benefits to cattle and sheep.

“A huge benefit of supplying magnesium through a low moisture bucket or feed block is an increase in forage utilisation by upwards of 10%. As livestock lick the feed, the increased release of saliva buffers the highly concentrated levels of sugar and energy flowing to the rumen. This, in turn, helps cattle and sheep make the most of the available forage on offer,” says Dr Bond.

“Fortified with minerals, vitamins and trace elements, they also work to support animal health and performance – making them a multi-purpose product.”

If using a water-soluble supplement, Dr Bond advises that livestock must not have access to any other water source, such as puddles, to ensure intakes are achieved.