Ergot - A Problem For Livestock Producers

Ergot - A Problem For Livestock Producers
Posted on 10/23/2018

Ergot is of concern to livestock producers especially during wet growing conditions and delayed harvest.  This fungal disease occurs on the kernels of wheat, barley, triticale, and forage grasses; however, rye is most susceptible.  Ergot infestation occurs during the plant flowering stage and is most aggressive during summers characteristic of continuous days of moisture. 


The disease produces hard, dense fungus bodies, called sclerotia, and show a purplish-black exterior with a relatively smooth surface texture.  Whenever ergot-infested grain is inadvertently mixed with other grains and/or incorporated into food, poisoning can result.  Ingested ergot releases an alkaloid-type poison that restricts bloodflow and if left unmanaged over time, symptoms can escalate to sloughing of extremities to more extreme cases when gangrene can develop.  In livestock, lameness is often the first sign of ergot poisoning. 


Unfortunately there is no direct solution to managing ergot infestation.  Infestation management depends upon the degree of ergot spore transmission to susceptible crops and understanding the contributing environmental risk factors.  Producers may take proactive measures to reduce the likeliness of ergot poisoning in livestock by:

•             Using Certified seed with low levels of ergot;

•             Controlling grasses growing along headlands;

•             Blending off feeds;

•             Harvest and bin headlands separately;

•             Use of gravity tables and color sorters to clean grain (if economical);

•             Crop rotation between cereals and broadleaf crops like canola


If you have any questions please feel free to contact your Ag Fieldman @(780) 864 - 3760