U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



J. Animal Science 67:3456‑3462


U.S. government work


Plant breeders developing cultivars to minimize the hazards of grass tetany are concentrating largely on increasing herbage Mg concentrations in cool-season (C 3) grasses. Significant genetic variation has been found for Mg, Ca and K concentrations within C3 grass species studied to date. For most C 3 forage grass species, heritability estimates are highest for Mg, slightly lower for Ca and lowest for K concentrations. The largest genotype x environmental interactions are found for K values, whereas small environmental effects have been observed for Mg and Ca values. No C 3 forage grass cultivar has been developed to date that would eliminate hypomagnesemia. Grass breeders need to develop more experimental C 3 plant populations that have high Mg and Ca concentrations. These experimental synthetics with genetically altered mineral concentrations need to be fed to ruminants susceptible to grass tetany to determine whether grass tetany can be eliminated or reduced. Limited feeding trials using ruminants show that improved animal performance can be expected when feeding forage grasses bred for higher Mg concentrations.