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2018-134: Simple strategies to reduce impacts of ergot alkaloids on beef cattle

Researcher: Kim Stanford

Funding: $23,646

Project Description:

Very little information is available regarding the impacts of cereal ergot alkaloids, and the different types of ergot throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta. There is also speculation that storage and pelleting at high temperatures might decrease their toxicity. Therefore, the cost of storing and pelleting, as well as their effects on cattle, will be studied.


To get a representative sample of various types of ergot, fifteen samples were gathered. Five of those samples were then heated for ten minutes, before being mixed with barley chop and canola meal and pelleted. To test whether the pellets would increase of decrease the physiological effects of ergot in cattle, 48 backgrounding Angus-cross steers were fed either these pellets, a mash which also included ergot, or pellets/mash which did not have ergot.

The research team found that while some of the problematic epimers which cause harmful effects on cattle increased, the negative physiological effects on the cattle did not increase.

The researchers suspect that the level of ergot in the study, 1ppm, was too low to generate a reaction in the cattle, and therefore the allowable limit for ergot in feed might be too restrictive.

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