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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 3, p. 441-446
     
    Received: Sept 28, 1973


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doi:10.2134/agronj1974.00021962006600030031x

Chemical Composition of Agropyron desertorum as Related to Grass Tetany1

  1. H. F. Mayland,
  2. D. L. Grunes and
  3. D. M. Stuart2

Abstract

Abstract

Grass tetany, a Mg deficiency of ruminants, accounts for significant economic losses to Western cattlemen during the spring grazing period on Agropyron desertorum. This nutritional deficiency may also occur when ruminants graze other temperate grasses, but the soil-plantanimal factors leading to the problem are not well understood.

The objective of this study was to provide definitive data relating seasonal changes in the chemical composition of forage to the occurrence of grass tetany on semiarid grasslands.

The field experiment was established on two calcareous oils where grass tetany had previously occurred. Agropyron desertorum forage was harvested from both sites at regular intervals during the spring tetany period in each of 5 years. The forage samples were analyzed for mineral elements, N, total water-soluble carbohydrates (TWSC), higher fatty acids (HFA), ash alkalinity, and aconitic acid.

High levels of N and HFA, which are known from other studies to reduce Mg availability to the animal, coincided with the occurrence of tetany. The low Mg concentrations measured in the forage probably provided only marginal levels of available Mg to the grazing animals. A rapid increase in the ratio of N/TWSC coincided with the onset of tetany, and may be the primary factor which indirectly decreases Mg availability and precipitates the occurrence of tetany. Although the relationship of the protein/energy imbalance to grass tetany has been suggested previously, as far as the authors are aware this is the first time that N/TWSC values obtained during the growing season have been documented in conjunction with the occurrence of grass tetany.

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