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Producers Warned about Ergot-Contaminated Grains

by 5m Editor
26 October 2011, at 8:28am

CANADA - Western Canadian swine producers are being advised to be aware of the potential for cereal grain samples to be contaminated by ergot, writes Bruce Cochrane for University News.

Ergot produces a toxin that, when fed to swine, tends to cause feed refusal among grow-finish pigs and, when fed even at low levels to pigs destined for the breeding herd, impacts the production of hormones associated with reproduction.

Dr Denise Beaulieu, a research scientist nutrition with the Saskatoon-based Prairie Swine Centre, says experiments conducted a few years ago looking at the effect of ergot on the growth of weanling pigs showed a depression in feed intake, which affected overall performance.

Dr Denise Beaulieu – Prairie Swine Centre

Ergot is actually a fungus that we see most commonly in grain crops like rye but I think this year we're also seeing some in barley and wheat.

We see it in any growing year that has had some wet areas, a lot of moisture or delayed planting or harvesting.

It would only be in those specific areas that they may have gotten their crops in late or maybe specific areas of a field that had a lot of flooding and so the crops are in late.

It requires cool damp weather during its flowering stage so it would be in very specific areas of the province.

It's actually the alkaloids which are the toxins produced by the ergot that have a negative effect on swine growth and production.


Dr Beaulieu says levels as low as 0.1 per cent of ergot in the diet resulted in a negative effect on growth and feed intake of the young piglet and, while there were no gender specific effects observed at that stage, there were effects on some of the hormones in the piglet that would be associated with reproduction so she advises against feeding ergot contaminated grain to any pig destined for the breeding herd.

She suggests anyone looking for up to date information on where ergot has been detected to look at the Saskatchewan Agriculture web site.