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The high risk of low-magnesium forages

Dalton family depends on Co-op Hi-Mag Mineral to combat potential for grass tetany
Story and photos by: Glen Liford 1/27/2020


Lance Dalton puts out Co-op mineral for a group of replacement heifers at the family farm at Treadway in Hancock County, where his family manages a cow/calf operation including about 100 commercial and 15 registered Angus cows on approximately 560 leased and owned acres. As a part of their year-round supplemental program, the Daltons provide Co-op Hi-Mag Mineral (#675) in the spring and early summer to guard their herd against grass tetany.
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After the dreary grays, tans, and browns of the bleak winter landscape, the bright green foliage of tender new growth of cool-season grasses is a welcome sight as pastures start to “green up” in the early spring.

But there’s danger lurking in those spring hues, and cattle producers should be wary, says Jessica Young, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative livestock specialist.

“That early spring pasture growth is typically lacking in magnesium,” she says. “Cool soil temperatures keep the plants from absorbing magnesium. And when cattle consume the grass, they can become deficient in magnesium, which can produce a life-threatening condition called grass tetany.”

While grass tetany can occur any time during the year, the risk is greatest in the spring, she adds.

Roger Dalton and sons Lance, John, and Ryan (Beebo) understand the looks of those lush green pastures can be deceiving. The Daltons manage a cow-calf operation consisting of roughly 100 commercial cows, along with 15 registered Angus cows, which are being used to raise replacement heifers and bulls. For years, the Daltons have provided Co-op Hi-Mag Mineral (#675) to their cattle in the spring through early summer at their 180-acre farm at Treadway in Hancock County. The Hi-Mag Mineral is just one component of a year-round mineral program designed to keep their cattle in good condition.

“There are certain things the cattle just don’t get out of the [pasture,]” says Lance. You have to give the cows what they need. If you don’t, they won’t work for you. That’s just how it is.”

The Daltons follow up the Hi-Mag mineral with one of the Co-op Fly Control Minerals. The fly control product coupled with a pinkeye vaccine help reduce the incidence of pinkeye.

Finishing up the year, the Daltons will switch to a simple Co-op Foundation Mineral (#663).

“It’s really helped our conception rates, and I believe it will help as we work to tighten up our calving season,” says Lance.

All the products are purchased at Hancock Farmers Cooperative in Sneedville, says Lance, noting that Joe McDaniel and his staff are extremely helpful and provide competitive pricing and exceptional service.

“They are really good with us,” says Lance. “They’re good for the farmers. You know as I do that cattle prices are not where we would like them to be. I think the only way to maintain a farm and be in business a long time is to watch how much you spend. It is tough at best.”

Programs like their Co-op mineral program are just one of the practices that the Daltons feel gives them an edge in the competitive business, they say, noting they’re always looking for ways to add income to their farming operation.

“Like most of our neighbors, we used to raise tobacco,” says Lance, who explains the family has diversified its farming activities since the crop fell from prominence and have expanded the cattle business to make up for the lost income. The mineral program is just one more way to add value, he says.

“I think they really work, and they’re worth the money,” he says.

The Farm House is latest addition

In their efforts to diversify, the Dalton family has converted a historic homestead located on their farm to a bed and breakfast and event venue they call The Farm House.

The venture’s namesake is the home built in 1879, which came with the property. A few years ago, the family decided to renovate it and open it up to visitors. The two-story house features four bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, laundry room, family room, and dining room.

“I guess I always had a dream that I wanted to have a B & B,” says Wanda, who takes the lead on the businesses’ operation. She gets assistance from son John, who advertises the historic home on the Internet, using sites like Facebook and

“We rented it out yearly for a while,” she explains. “That didn’t work out too well. When the last people moved out, I told Roger, ‘We’re going to restore this place and start renting it as a B&B.’ We didn’t have any idea what it would do.”

It took more than a year to get the house “restored,” she says. But the effort has attracted people from near and far, locations even as distant as Australia, who have come to the East Tennessee mountains to enjoy the tranquility offered by the authentic farm setting the Daltons and their neighbors often take for granted.

Wanda says the farm’s solitude offers the chance for visitors to get away from the distractions of their busy lives, and she adds that the family has received the “sweetest notes” from guests:

“We loved the animals.”

“We’ve had family time. Everyone is unplugged and not on their phones. We love that.”

“They just want to let the kids get out, run, play, and not worry about anyone bothering them,” she says. “They love the quiet.”

The family has hosted several weddings — Wanda also has a catering business — as well as family reunions, birthday parties, and other events at the property.

Contact the Daltons at 423-733-8641 to inquire about availability or to make reservations at The Farm House. They can also be found on Facebook as The Farm House at Copper Ridge.

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