Ergot Toxicosis

Ergot Toxicity (Ergotism) Ergot toxicity is caused by continued ingestion of the parasitic fungus Claviceps Purpurea that replaces the grain or seed of rye and other small grains of forage plants. Ergot causes constriction of blood vessels to the muscles. In cold climates the extremities become susceptible to gangrene.

Clinical Symptoms: Goats may appear lame approximately two weeks after ingesting infected hay or grain. Joints of the legs, fetlock and pastern, become swollen and tender. Within one week, sensation is lost in the affected limb, followed by dry gangrene. The affected part will slough up to the hock or knee. Additionally, ulceration of the mouth may be present.

Prevention and Control: Control of ergotism consists of an immediate change to an ergot-free diet. Under pasture feeding conditions, frequent grazing or topping of pastures prone to ergot infection during the summer months will reduce flower head production and help control the disease. Grain or hay containing even small amounts of ergot should not be fed to pregnant animals.