Friday, April 5, 2013

Salt and Mag

 Have you heard about grass tetany? Do you deal with it in your location? Many people are quite surprised that we have this problem in Eastern Wyoming, as it is caused by a magnesium deficiency combined with cattle grazing "lush, green, rapidly growing grass."
Yes, we have had lush, green, rapidly growing grass here, once upon a time. But, this spring it looks like this:

Not seeing the green lush part? Well, look closer at the next photo:

Laugh if you must, but I kid you not that those teeny tiny little sprigs of green grass pack a serious punch, and will cause grass tetany in our cattle every spring if we don't take preventative measures.
Fortunately, prevention is as easy as adding some magnesium oxide (mag) to loose salt. Cattle will store the magnesium in their blood stream, so once you get levels up, it's fairly easy to ensure that everyone is safe and will not suffer from grass tetany again during the transition from winter to summer eating.
What happens if they do get too low in magnesium and eat to much of our potent green grass? Well, in a mild case they will stagger around and lose coordination and fluidity of movement. Worse case scenario is death, so we make sure we get our mag and salt out at the first sign of any green in the spring.
 The process is simple. I took my trusty feeding sidekicks along, who oversaw the entire process and guarded the pickup cab. In that bag is the magnesium oxide.

 It looks like this. I read that you need 12 percent magnesium in the cow's bloodstream to prevent grass tetany. I do not know if this is universal, high or low. We don't get overly technical with this, and our method works for us.

Here's my loose salt, in the coolest bags! While it would be ideal to have it all stacked nicely, I cannot seem to feed salt without ripping a bag, which is the one on the left in this case. You can also just see the bottom of the barrel that will house our salt/mag mixture.

 I drug the barrel out and put it by the water tank so everyone would find it, and because the cows already have this spot tromped down - no point in making another little spot in the pasture look like this.
This was all going down while waiting for the cows to trail in to feed. A special bonus to every feed day is dealing with the pet cows, which we primarily blame my brother for taming down. Please note his special cow (more on her to come) licking the cake dust and salt off the pickup tailgate, right in the way. Her buddy, Number 2, is another tame cow, and previous Cow of Note feature.

 I scooped my old coffee mug full of mag, and gathered up the first bag of salt.

 If you have ripped a hole in the bag, pouring is somewhat more difficult. Especially with wild cows assisting : )

 If you don't rip the bag, you handily pull the string tab to open it.

 Then I just pour the salt into the tub while sprinkling the mag in as I go. We aim for about two of these coffee mugs per 50 lb. bag of salt. My mom also uses an old mason jar at the rate of one to one. I said we weren't very technical on all this...

 Finishing up the last bag. After I have everything poured, I'll use my hands to mix it all up really good, and try to get the mag evenly distributed.

Then you stand back while the apparently salt hungry cows dig in. Once the general curiosity over a new tub of salt is over they'll only consume what they need. If a cow is mag deficient, she will look for sources, and consume this mixture to meet her needs.


  1. Thought you might be interested in this article. I found it very interesting. I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. We do the same thing with the mag. Haven't had a cow with grass tetany for a while, but always take precaution.

    Can’t believe you have green grass. We got rain Friday night/Saturday morn and have been getting moisture most of the day. They are calling for several inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. Battening down the hatches and the barn is full of calving cows and new babies.

    Love your helpers! My Sister has a Doxie that loves being in the sheep barn.