Response to Selection for Reduced Grass Tetany Potential in Crested Wheatgrass
- K. H. Asay ,
- H. F. Mayland and
- D. H. Clark
Grass tetany (hypomagnesemia) has caused substantial economic losses in ruminant animals grazing crested wheatgrass (Agropyron spp.) and other cool-season (C3) grasses. This malady is most prevalent in early lactating animals grazing forage that is deficient in Mg, Ca, and carbohydrates and with high levels of K. The K/(Ca + Mg) ratio expressed as moles of charge is often used to estimate the grass tetany potential of forage samples. Previous studies have shown that heritable variation exists in crested wheatgrass populations for traits associated with grass tetany, and research was conducted to determine the genetic response to selection for these traits. Selections were made during 1985 from two crested wheatgrass breeding populations in Utah (‘I-28’ and ‘Hycrest’) based on a reduced grass tetany potential (RTP) index, which incorporates the K/(Ca + Mg) ratio along with concentrations of Ca, Mg, and K. Mean values for the K/(Ca + Mg) were reduced by 5% in 1-28 and 11% in Hycrest after one cycle of selection. Narrow-sense heritability values based on actual genetic advance and parent-progeny regression ranged from 0.62 to 0.82 in analyses of data combined across two sampling dates and two years (1988 and 1989). Genetic response to selection on the basis of RTP index was closely associated with the K/(Ca + Mg) ratio and concentrations of Ca and Mg but not with levels of K. Correlations between the K/(Ca + Mg) ratio and crude protein content and digestibility suggested that selection for RTP would likely be accompanied by improved forage quality in the Hycrest breeding population.
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