Alterations in hemograms and serum biochemical analytes of steers after prolonged consumption of endophyte-infected tall fescue

J Anim Sci. 2000 Apr;78(4):1029-35. doi: 10.2527/2000.7841029x.


The objective of the current study was to delineate changes that occur in serum analytes and blood cellular elements in cattle that graze endophyte-infested (Neotyphodium coenophialum) tall fescue. Tall fescue is grown on more than 35 million acres (14.2 million ha) of pasture in the United States, and three-fourths of the pastures are infected with the endophyte at a 60% or greater level. Tall fescue toxicosis caused by endophyte-produced ergot alkaloids continues to be the most important grass-related disease in the United States, in terms of economic loss to animal producers. However, the agronomic attributes of tall fescue make it an attractive forage species because of its ability to withstand cool temperatures, drought, poor soil conditions, and intensive defoliation from herbivore species, including insects. Tall fescue toxicosis is a complex disease and the need exists to understand the mechanisms of the toxic effects in order to institute effective, prophylactic control measures. Our group previously reported changes that occur in serum biochemical analytes of cattle that graze endophyte-infected tall fescue. An additional year's worth of data have been added, strengthening and corroborating these data. Consistent and significant changes associated with tall fescue toxicosis during the 3-yr study included decreased serum concentrations of cholesterol, globulin (increased albumin/globulin ratio), prolactin, total protein, and copper. The activity of alanine aminotransferase was decreased in serum, whereas an increase in serum concentrations of creatinine and total bilirubin occurred. The present report also documents comparative hemograms of cattle that grazed endophyte-infected or endophyte-free tall fescue over a prolonged period. The mean erythrocyte counts were increased in cattle that grazed endophyte-infected tall fescue, whereas mean corpuscular hemoglobin and mean corpuscular volume were decreased, as were mean eosinophil counts. Thus, repeatable changes have been identified that occur in serum biochemical and blood cellular values of cattle grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue that will aid in understanding the pathogenesis of the disease. In addition, these consistently altered parameters can be used to assess the effectiveness of potential prophylactic treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acremonium*
  • Animal Feed / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / blood*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / veterinary
  • Ergotism / blood
  • Ergotism / veterinary
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Poaceae / microbiology*


  • Hemoglobins