Nineteen years ago I moved to this area and started practicing veterinary medicine. I was amazed at the blinding green and the growth of the grass. I was told by other veterinarians that if I did not know what was making the cattle sick, just blame it on fescue. Well, that sounded like a cheap out, and a disservice to my clients, so I started doing some research.
First, I found that the poultry industry made this area. Poultry litter made great fertilizer and made fescue grow. Now they had the fertilizer and grass, so they put cattle on that grass. With the abundance of litter, we could grow an abundance of grass for pasture, and hay for cattle.
It was noted that the main problem was grass tetany. So, everyone would put out sweet Mag to try and prevent this disease. I still saw fescue foot, cows losing switches and fat necrosis. These problems were coming from the fescue and the endophyte.
We have all seen the cow trying to slough a foot or losing a switch from fescue. This comes from a shut down of blood supply to that specific area of the body. To explain fat necrosis, it is also a shut down of blood supply, but to the internal fat in the cow. Now inside the body there is no way the cow can slough the fat. Instead, her body will calcify it after it has died. This calcified fat will feel like rocks inside the cow when pregnancy-examining the cow.  Normally, you cannot feel fat. But, in this case you can. I have had the opportunity to examine this fat on a post-mortem examination. It is very hard and cuts like good cheddar cheese with sand in it.
Now for lack of a better explanation I will call this a form of benign cancer.  Sooner or later it will impede on major organs of the body and put your cow down on the ground. And there is nothing I can do about it after I've found it. But, this can be prevented.
What this takes is a mineral program with a level of magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, but also the anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. These anti-oxidant compounds are Vitamin A & E and Selenium. With the appropriate levels of anti-oxidant compounds in our mineral provided for our cattle we do not see these problems with fescue.
The other problem I have run into is a copper deficiency. Specialists say we have plenty of copper in our dirt. But, they forget that potash ties copper up and so does the fescue plant itself. If copper is all tied up it will just go through the cow and end up on the ground again. We also have a lot of sulphur water around the area. When you put copper and sulphur together you get copper sulphate. Again, it is tied up and unavailable to the cow.  Therefore, we need to have a mineral with a chelated copper in it and at a level high enough to keep the cattle in good health.
This is why I say we need a higher level of management to raise cattle here. We have to supplement them more, due to the type of grass and ground we have.
Dr. Tim O'Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here