Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The tolerance of steers (Bos taurus) to sorghum ergot (Claviceps africana) in a feedlot during the cooler months in subtropical Queensland

Stuart R. McLennan A B F , Barry J. Blaney B D , Vivienne J. Doogan B E and Jeff A. Downing C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The University of Queensland, Centre for Animal Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, GPO Box 267, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

B Previously: Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Animal Research Institute, Moorooka, Qld 4105, Australia.

C Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, 425 Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.

D Present address: PO Box 367, Maleny, Qld 4552, Australia.

E Present address: 45 Watson Street, Camp Hill, Qld 4152, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: s.mclennan@uq.edu.au

Animal Production Science 57(5) 884-895 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN15485
Submitted: 26 August 2015  Accepted: 3 March 2016   Published: 17 June 2016

Abstract

Two experiments tested the tolerance of steers (Bos taurus) to sorghum ergot (Claviceps africana) during cooler months in south-east Queensland. Sorghum grain containing 2.8% ergot and 28 mg/kg ergot alkaloids (84% dihydroergosine, 10% dihydroelymoclavine, 6% festuclavine) was incorporated into feedlot rations. In a previous study in summer–autumn, ergot (1.1–4.4 mg alkaloids/kg ration) severely reduced performance in steers when the temperature–humidity index (THI; dry bulb temperature °C + 0.36 dew-point temperature °C + 41.2) was ~70, whereas a THI of ~79 was tolerated by steers fed ergot-free rations. Experiment 1 was conducted in winter–spring, with rations containing 0, 2.8, 5.6, 8.2 or 11.2 mg ergot alkaloids/kg ration. All ergot inclusions depressed feed intake (14% average reduction) and growth rate (34% average reduction), even when the weekly average daily THI was less than 65. Rectal temperatures were occasionally elevated in ergot-fed steers (P < 0.05), primarily when the THI exceeded ~65. All ergot inclusions depressed plasma prolactin concentrations in steers. Experiment 2 was predominantly carried out in winter, with weekly average daily THI <65 throughout the experiment. Rations containing 0, 0.28, 0.55 or 1.1 mg ergot alkaloids/kg were fed for 4 weeks but produced no significant effect on feed intakes and growth rates of steers. Alkaloid concentrations were then changed to 0, 2.1, 4.3 and 1.1 mg/kg, respectively. Subsequently, feed intakes declined by 17.5% (P < 0.05), and growth rates by 28% (P > 0.05) in the group receiving 4.3 mg/kg alkaloid, compared with Controls. Plasma prolactin concentrations were depressed, relative to the Controls, by dietary alkaloid inclusion greater than 1.1 mg/kg, with alkaloid intake of 4.3 mg/kg causing the greatest reduction (P < 0.05). Cattle performance in these studies shows steers can tolerate up to ~2 mg ergot alkaloid/kg (0.2% ergot) in feedlot rations under low THI conditions (< ~60–65), but previous findings indicate a much lower threshold will apply at higher THI (>65).

Additional keywords: fungus, mycotoxin.


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