Using On-Farm Monitoring of Ergovaline and Tall Fescue Composition for Horse Pasture Management

Toxins (Basel). 2021 Sep 25;13(10):683. doi: 10.3390/toxins13100683.


Central Kentucky horse pastures contain significant populations of tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinacea (Schreb.) Dumort) infected with an endophyte (Epichloë coenophialum (Morgan-Jones and Gams) Bacon and Schardl) known to produce several ergot alkaloids, with ergovaline in the highest concentration. While most classes of horses are not adversely affected by average levels of ergovaline in pastures, late term pregnant mares have a low tolerance to ergovaline and the related ergot alkaloids. Endophyte-infected tall fescue has been known to cause prolonged gestation, thickened placenta, dystocia, agalactia, and foal and mare mortality. The University of Kentucky Horse Pasture Evaluation Program utilizes ergovaline and endophyte testing, as well as pasture species composition, to calculate ergovaline in the total diet in broodmare pastures. This data is used to develop detailed management recommendations for individual pastures. Application of these recommendations has led to reduced tall fescue toxicity symptoms on these farms, as well as improved pasture management and improved forage quality and quantity.

Keywords: ergovaline; horse pastures; pregnant mares; species composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animals
  • Endophytes
  • Epichloe / isolation & purification
  • Ergotamines / analysis*
  • Female
  • Horse Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Horses
  • Kentucky
  • Mycoses / prevention & control
  • Mycoses / veterinary*
  • Poaceae / microbiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Complications / veterinary


  • Ergotamines
  • ergovaline