Use of nonergot alkaloid-producing endophytes for alleviating tall fescue toxicosis in stocker cattle

J Anim Sci. 2003 Nov;81(11):2856-68. doi: 10.2527/2003.81112856x.


Grazing studies were conducted to determine cattle growth performance, evaluate toxicosis, and compare grazing behavior in stocker cattle grazing nonergot alkaloid-producing endophyte-infected (AR542 or AR502), endophyte-free (E-), or wild-type toxic endophyte-infected (E+) Jesup, Georgia-5, and Kentucky-31 tall fescue. Replicated 0.81-ha tall fescue paddocks were established at the Central Georgia Branch Station at Eatonton and the Northwest Georgia Branch Station at Calhoun during October 1998 and were stocked with beef cattle for autumn and spring periods from fall 1999 through spring 2002. Mean ergot alkaloid concentrations were higher (P < 0.01) on E+ pastures than the other treatments at both locations. At Calhoun and Eatonton, post-treatment serum prolactin concentrations were decreased (P < 0.01) on E+ compared with AR542, AR502, and E- tall fescue. Cattle on AR542, AR502, and E- pastures had lower (P < 0.05) post-treatment rectal temperatures than cattle grazing E+ tall fescue during spring at Eatonton and Calhoun. Calf ADG was higher (P < 0.05) on AR542, AR502, and E- as compared with E+ tall fescue during autumn and spring grazing at Eatonton, and at Calhoun, cattle on E+ pastures had lower (P < 0.05) ADG in both autumn and spring. Gain/hectare was higher (P < 0.05) on AR542, AR502, and E- than on E+ during autumn at Eatonton and during spring at both locations. In autumn at Calhoun, gain/hectare was greater (P < 0.05) on AR502 and E- compared with E+ tall fescue. During April, May, and June, cattle grazing E+ pastures at Eatonton spent more (P < 0.01) time idling, more (P < 0.01) time standing, and used more (P < 0.01) water than cattle on AR542 and E- tall fescue. Daily prehensions and biting rate were each higher (P < 0.01) on AR542 and E- tall fescue than E+ tall fescue in both grazing seasons. There were no differences among pasture treatments for bite size in either spring (P = 0.50) or autumn (P = 0.34). Steers grazing E+ pastures had lower DMI than steers grazing AR542 and E- pastures during spring (P < 0.10) and lower DMI than steers grazing E- pastures during autumn (P < 0.05). Daily steer water usage was decreased (P < 0.10) in E+ pastures compared with AR542 and E- pastures during late fall. These results indicate that nonergot alkaloid-producing endophyte technology is a promising option for alleviating tall fescue toxicosis in stocker cattle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Body Temperature
  • Cattle / blood
  • Cattle / growth & development*
  • Cattle / physiology
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • Cattle Diseases / prevention & control
  • Eating
  • Ergot Alkaloids
  • Female
  • Festuca / microbiology*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Hypocreales / physiology
  • Male
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Random Allocation
  • Seasons
  • Weight Gain


  • Ergot Alkaloids
  • Prolactin