2016-186: Effect of Ergot on Beef Bull Fertility
Researcher: Jaswant Singh
The effect of ergot on cattle has been studied in the past. Beef nutritionists feel comfortable providing their cattle with a low level of ergot in feed, while higher levels of ergot can lead to large wrecks. However, Dr. Singh and his team are investigating whether even these low levels of ergot can lead to poor fertility for bulls in the year that they eat ergot and beyond. They hope to provide better recommendations to bovine nutritionists with this information, which could lead to higher fertility rates in years after ergot contaminated crops.
A series of studies were conducted to characterize the low-level exposure of ergot on bull reproductive health and semen characteristics. The three studies involved an exposure of adult bulls to low levels of ergot. The results of these studies indicate that adult bulls can tolerate up to 2.2 mg ergot alkaloids / kg of Dry Matter Intake for 8-week period in the spring season without having health effects or any major deleterious effects on bull semen evaluation. It needs to be emphasized that feed supply to cows was highly controlled and these conclusions cannot yet be extended to the severe winter conditions in Saskatchewan without further testing. Further, Canadian standards need to be re-considered and revised in the light of this study.