Symptoms of ergovaline poisoning in livestock are:
- decreased milk production (as much as 45% reduction!)
- poor body condition
- general poor health
- decreased weight gain (stocker gains can be halved!)
- delayed hair coat shedding
- low conception rate
- low birth weight
- circulatory problems (ie: ear tips freezing, sloughing off of tail switch, even so far as to slough off hooves)
- loss of appetite
- poor circulation also leads to inability to dissipate body heat (especially troublesome in the heat and humidity of summer) (this is the main problem which leads to the above symptoms)
The cause is that the fungus is a vaso constricting substance called ergovaline. A good explanation comes from Endophyte Service Laboratory, College of Agriculture Sciences
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331 USA.
“The toxin ergovaline is a vaso-constrictor, it constricts the blood vessels and reduces blood circulation to the outer parts of the animal’s body. Animals that have consumed a toxic dose of ergovaline will have difficulty regulating body temperature. The constriction of blood flow also can cause “fescue foot”. Fescue foot is characterized by gangrene or tissue death in the legs, ears and tails.”
Recent research done by Matt Booher, Crop and Soil Agent at Virginia Coopoerative Extension and John Benner indicates that despite our best efforts, endophyte infected fescue at all stages of growth causes some level of poisoning to livestock.
Seems mind boggling that we farmers and ranchers continue to allow this non-native plant to be grazed by our stock, doesn’t it!? Tannachton Farm is on a mission to remove it. It will be a fight since the grass is allelopathic and persistent!