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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: OPTIMIZING THE BIOLOGY OF THE ANIMAL-PLANT INTERFACE FOR IMPROVED SUSTAINABILITY OF FORAGE-BASED ANIMAL ENTERPRISES

Location: Forage-Animal Production Research

Title: Endoophyte Infected Tall Fescue and Small Ruminant Production: Do We Have a Problem?

Authors
item Ditsch, D - UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
item Aiken, Glen

Submitted to: Forage and Grazinglands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 19, 2009
Publication Date: November 4, 2009
Citation: Ditsch, D.C., Aiken, G.E. 2009. Endoophyte Infected Tall Fescue and Small Ruminant Production: Do We Have a Problem? Forage and Grazinglands. doi:10.1094/FG-2009-1104-02-RS.

Interpretive Summary: Small ruminiant production has been increasing in the upper transition zone of the USA. The dominant forage in this region is tall fescue, a cool perennial grass. The grass is productive and persistent with minimal inputs of management, but an endophytic fungus infects most tall fescue plants that produces ergot alkaloids, which can cause a toxicosis in cattle. There has been little research on the effect that ergot alkaloids have on the physiology and production of sheep and goats; however, the limited research suggests a negative impact of ergot alkaloids on sheep and meat goat production when endophyte-infected tall fescue is the major constituent of the diet. Research is needed to better understand the effect that ergot alkaloids have on the production of small ruminants so that management approaches can be developed to overcome the potential economic losses when small ruminants graze endophyte infected tall fescue.

Technical Abstract: Small ruminant production has been expanding in the upper transition zone where tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum L.) is the dominant perennial cool-season grass forage species. Although the grass is well adapted to the region, an endophyte (Neotyphodium coenophialum) that infects most tall fescue plants produces ergot alkaloids, which can cause a toxicosis in cattle that negatively affects reproductive performance and weight gain efficiency. Little is known about the effect that ergot alkaloids have on the physiology and production of sheep and goats, but limited research suggests a negative impact of ergot alkaloids on sheep and meat goat production when endophyte-infected tall fescue is the major constituent of the diet.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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