Pork Producers Urged to Be Aware of Ergot Infection

CANADA - A swine nutritionist with the Prairie Swine Centre is encouraging pork producers to be aware of the potential for ergot in cereal grains this year and avoid feeding contaminated grain to pigs that will become part of the breeding herd, Bruce Cochrane writes.
calendar icon 3 October 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Ergot is a fungal disease that thrives under cool damp weather conditions infecting cereal grains at the flowering stage producing toxins that reduce the grain's end use desirability.

Ergot has emerged as the primary downgrading factor affecting cereal crops this year.

Dr Denise Beaulieu, a research scientist nutrition with the Prairie Swine Centre, explains you can actually see evidence of the fungus which is black in the sample and the fungus itself contains the toxins which are alkaloids and there are many different types of alkaloids so the concentration of alkaloids and the type of alkaloid will influence toxicity.

Denise Beaulieu-Prairie Swine Centre

When we did an experiment a few years ago looking at the effect of ergot on growth of weanling pigs the first thing that we saw was a depression in feed intake so this affected overall performance.

At levels as low as 0.1 per cent of ergot in the diet we saw a negative effect on growth and feed intake of the young piglet.

At that stage of growth we didn't see any gender specific effects but we also did see at very very low levels effects on some of the hormones in the piglets that would be associated with reproduction and so, while we would recommend that you could feed grains that have a very low level of contamination to the growing pig, we would recommend that you do not feed any at all to the breeding herd.

Dr Beaulieu says you can have ergot in the diet at levels not greater than 0.1 per cent so if you suspect ergot have your grain tested, then dilute out the ration to be sure it is not higher than 0.1 per cent and certainly do not feed it to any sows that will be destined for breeding.

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