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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 73 No. 2, p. 337-347
    Received: Apr 10, 1980

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Chemical Composition of Winter Wheat Forage Grown Where Grass Tetany and Bloat Occur1

  1. B. A. Stewart,
  2. D. L. Grunes,
  3. A. C. Mathers and
  4. F. P. Horn2



Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is widely used in the southern High Plains as a forage for beef cattle. Although grazing wheat is generally financially profitable, death losses often occur. Frothy bloat and grass tetany are often mentioned as causes, but the conditions under which these metabolic disorders occur are not completely understood. The objectives of the present study were: (1) to determine the changes in chemical composition of wheat forage during the normal wheat grazing season; (2) to determine the effect of N fertilizer on the chemical composition of the forage; and (3) to gain insight into the factors predisposing cattle grazed on wheat pasture to tetanic or bloat-related death. Wheat pastures at Bushland, Texas, and El Reno, Oklahoma, were studied for 3 years by taking forage samples almost weekly during the growing seasons. Samples were analyzed for N, K, Ca, Mg, P, ash alkalinity, aconitate, and total nonstructural carbohydrates. Significant changes in forage composition occurred within very short periods. For example, in 1978 at El Reno, the K concentration increased from 2 to 4.5% in 2 weeks. During the same period, large changes occurred in the N, aconitate, ash alkalinity, and total nonstructural carbohydrate concentrations; but Mg concentrations did not change significantly. Nitrogen fertilization clearly affected chemical composition of the forage and generally increased the indices that are commonly associated with high incidence of frothy bloat and grass tetany. Elimination of fertilizer N is not practical because of the resulting pronounced decrease in forage and grain production. Therefore, other management practices are required to minimize or prevent frothy bloat and grass tetany problems on winter wheat forage.

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