Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Staggers (Farmer Factsheet)

Contributor(s): Louise Cox-O’Shea , John Tulloch

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  • Staggers, or hypomagnesaemia, is a deficiency of magnesium.
  • The average annual incidence of clinical acute hypomagnesaemia (staggers) in UK dairy herds is under 1%. However given that 30% of affected animals will die, this represents a cost of approximately £4 million per annum in the UK.
  • Losses due to subclinical (or chronic) hypomagnesaemia are estimated at £8 million due to depression of dry matter intakes, milk yields and body condition, and increased susceptibility to diseases such as milk fever.
    • These subclinical cases will often go undetected until a case of acute hypomagnesaemia occurs, or routine monitoring by blood sampling is used to detect the problem.
  • Classically, slightly more cases of acute hypomagnesaemia occur at grazing in the spring and autumn. However, cases can occur at any time of the year when magnesium intakes are not sufficient to meet demands, including during housing and in dry cows.
  • Both dairy and beef cattle can be affected.
  • Adults and calves can be affected.
  • Staggers occurs when the output of magnesium exceeds the intake.
  • Cattle are dependent upon dietary magnesium as they are unable to store or release quantities of magnesium from their body.
Image courtesy of Alistair Macrae (University of Edinburgh)

Types

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Predisposing factors

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