Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan`s web site have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow text box that resembles the link below and can be found in the right hand rail of the page. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found here:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

The results of software-based translation do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos, and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

Ergot Implications

By Trevor Lennox, Regional Forage Specialist, Swift Current

December 2016

The 2016 growing season has resulted in an increased number of ergot bodies showing up in cereals and grasses this year and producers need to be aware of the implications of ergot on livestock.  

Ergot is a fungal disease of the seed heads of cereals and grasses. Ergot is most prevalent when continuous moist conditions prevail during both stages of the disease cycle. First, moisture is needed at the soil surface during spring and early summer to promote germination of ergot bodies. Second, wet, cloudy and cool weather extends the period of flowering and increases the window of infection for spores to enter the flowers.

Ergotism can still be common in livestock when fed contaminated grain at the farm level. Symptoms may include lameness, loss of body parts from gangrene, abortions in pregnant animals, seizures, and eventually death. Consumption of contaminated feeds with sub-lethal doses may still lead to problems of poor growth and performance, loss of milk production in lactating animals, and animals going “off feed.” In some cases where intoxication isn’t lethal, animals may recover once the contaminated feed is removed.  However, in cases where lactating animals are affected the reduced milk production effects often persist for the duration of the lactation. 

Livestock differ in their susceptibility to ergot poisoning. Young or pregnant animals are considered highly susceptible. For beef cattle, 50 to 200 ppb (parts per billion) of ergot toxins (as based on a toxin analysis) are the recommended total dietary intake limits, on a dry matter basis.

If ergot bodies were observed in a cereal crop, it should be tested for ergot levels to make sure it is safe for livestock. Also be aware that ergot levels are typically higher around the edge of a field, as this is where the spores come in from roadside grasses. At time of harvest, it may be beneficial to bin these areas of higher ergot contamination separately so they can be managed and/or marketed differently from the rest of the field.

Be very careful when purchasing grain screenings (ie. pellets), as they can have very high levels of ergot. Quite often ergot bodies are picked up in the screening process, thus causing ergot levels to become much more concentrated. Always test screenings for ergot levels before feeding to livestock.

There are also cases on grass pastures and hay land where ergot levels can be at levels high enough to cause problems. Since ergot bodies are produced on grass seed heads, it would be after seed development that any sign of ergot problems would be observed. Symptoms observed may be increased amount of lameness when livestock are using the feed.

For further information contact Trevor Lennox at 306-778-8294 or

We need your feedback to improve Help us improve