Climatic conditions have led to an ergot presence in rye, brome and wheat grasses in many mid-western states due to summer heat following early moisture. Producers have been urged to exercise vigilance against ergot and be watchful of the dark brown or black growths in brome, rye, wheatgrass and other grasses. Staff at the University of Nebraska have advised cattlemen to watch ears and tails in cows because the ergot fungus shuts off blood flow to extremities.
Richard Randle, Beef veterinarian at Nebraska University said rear leg lameness is a problem from ergot as hooves swell but stated there was little chance of animals dying. “Ergot poisoning is unlikely to be fatal but because it can make cattle less tolerant of heat, they can be more susceptible to death from excessive heat,” said Mr. Randle. “If they are removed from the source of the fungus, they are likely to recover.” Ergot is larger than most seedheads, usually dark brown, purple to black in color. Ergot poisoning does not affect meat from cattle, he concluded.