Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Ergot  (Read 3532 times)

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Ergot
« on: August 29, 2021, 12:02:56 pm »
I've been trying to identify a sort of giant grass that is growing on my land ( photos in identification forum) and in the process showed someone a photo who said there were ergot spores in the seed heads. I have been looking in the field and I think he might be right--- I have never seen it before but it does look like it from photos on google. It's not very widespread as far as I can see, and only noticeable in this giant grass, but I am concerned that it might not be easily seen in the small seed heads of other grasses. This field is left all summer so the horses graze down the standing grass in the winter, so it hasn't been topped.
All I can find online about ergot poisoning is in grain. I can't see how dangerous it is in pasture anywhere. Does anyone know if a small amount will be dangerous?Topping now would just spread it about I would think so future management suggestions would also be appreciated. Should I be panicking?

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2021, 01:04:56 pm »
Close up of seed head with ergot

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Ergot
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2021, 09:40:05 am »
Interestingly, this came up on my FaceAche feed this morning

Quote
As I join the ranks of people baling and burning their winter standing hay because it's infested with ergot, it does make me wonder how much of the idiopathic liver damage we usually blame on ragwort is actually caused by mycotoxins in forage that are usually completely overlooked :(

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2021, 11:36:55 am »
That is interesting. I have a sheep with low grade liver damage--- lab assumed it was fluke but my vets agree that it can't be because I am meticulous in treating and testing for it and always get negative results. She's been a bit of a mystery, but there may have been ergot in the standing grass last winter that I was unaware of.

SallyintNorth--- do you know what part f the country that was in please?
« Last Edit: August 30, 2021, 11:44:35 am by Zan »

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Ergot
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2021, 12:09:23 pm »
That is interesting. I have a sheep with low grade liver damage--- lab assumed it was fluke but my vets agree that it can't be because I am meticulous in treating and testing for it and always get negative results. She's been a bit of a mystery, but there may have been ergot in the standing grass last winter that I was unaware of.



 :idea: Maybe we're getting somewhere.  I hadn't realised ergot was still such a problem.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Ergot
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2021, 02:57:03 pm »

SallyintNorth--- do you know what part f the country that was in please?

Norwich
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2021, 03:29:51 pm »
That is interesting. I have a sheep with low grade liver damage--- lab assumed it was fluke but my vets agree that it can't be because I am meticulous in treating and testing for it and always get negative results. She's been a bit of a mystery, but there may have been ergot in the standing grass last winter that I was unaware of.



 :idea: Maybe we're getting somewhere.  I hadn't realised ergot was still such a problem.

It is good to have a probable answer to Acorn's liver problem, but I have to say my head is just about exploding with the implications. My winter grazing is about 4.5 acres and since this discovery everyone is now crammed onto the horses' 2.5 acre summer field, which is well grazed down. I really hope I can find some professional help to get the winter field usable. 

arobwk

  • Joined Nov 2015
  • Kernow: either over-crowded or villages left half-empty.
Re: Ergot
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2021, 03:52:03 pm »
Intrigued by the ergot problem, I did a bit of research.  If I was you, @Zan, I would go around the land either with a weed burner to zap infected seed heads on the large grass clumps or pick the seed heads and then burn elsewhere (before the ergot infected seeds drop off). 
Next year/s, survey for any new growth of the mega grass and remove or prevent from forming seed heads (and so on).
[Rye grasses are, apparently, particularly susceptible to ergot infection.]



Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2021, 07:40:02 pm »
Intrigued by the ergot problem, I did a bit of research.  If I was you, @Zan, I would go around the land either with a weed burner to zap infected seed heads on the large grass clumps or pick the seed heads and then burn elsewhere (before the ergot infected seeds drop off). 
Next year/s, survey for any new growth of the mega grass and remove or prevent from forming seed heads (and so on).
[Rye grasses are, apparently, particularly susceptible to ergot infection.]

At first I thought it was limited to the giant clumps and was going to do just that, but I've been looking again and I can see some in some cocksfoot grass as well. I'm also not sure about some of the very small seed heads of other grasses--- I can see small black specks in some, but not sure if that's it. APHA were closed today -- bank holiday--- so I'm going to phone them in the morning and hopefully they can advise. Ideally I would like some expert to come out and do a site visit and then advise a course of action. At first sight there isn't an awful lot, but  there are some individual seed heads affected scattered over the whole 4.5 acres.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Ergot
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2021, 11:00:02 pm »
 :fc:  for you Zan
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2021, 09:02:37 pm »
Thanks Fleecewife.
 I phoned APHA, who passed me on to SAC at St Boswells, who passed me on to the Veterinary Investigation Centre, who passed me on to an Agricultural Consultant at SAC, Lanark. With all the usual switchboard frustration along the way. All the humans I spoke to were really, really nice and doing their best to help. The consultant is coming out to do a site visit on Thursday. I will report back then.

doganjo

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Qui? Moi?
    • ABERDON GUNDOGS for work and show
    • Facebook
Re: Ergot
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2021, 04:33:56 pm »
Thanks Fleecewife.
 I phoned APHA, who passed me on to SAC at St Boswells, who passed me on to the Veterinary Investigation Centre, who passed me on to an Agricultural Consultant at SAC, Lanark. With all the usual switchboard frustration along the way. All the humans I spoke to were really, really nice and doing their best to help. The consultant is coming out to do a site visit on Thursday. I will report back then.
Congratulations on your perseverance, @Zan .  I've never heard of this fungus, wouldn't know what to look for
Always have been, always will be, a WYSIWYG - black is black, white is white - no grey in my life! But I'm mellowing in my old age

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Ergot
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2021, 05:09:01 pm »
The AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) says: All cereals are susceptible. In order of decreasing susceptibility: rye, triticale, wheat, barley, oats. Ergot is also relatively common in wild grasses throughout the UK.

@doganjo  Ergot was the cause of the Salem witch trials apparently although QI would probably give me bells and clangers for that.  It's a fungus which is found on grasses but more importantly to humans on cultivated cereal crops. When eaten it can cause Ergotism:
<< Early symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and weakness, numbness, itching, and rapid or slow heartbeat. Ergot poisoning can progress to gangrene, vision problems, confusion, spasms, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death.>>
I don't know how that fits with the Salem witch trials but there you go

I have found what could possibly be some ergot bodies on some wild grass at our roadside, but I'm not convinced. Usually they grow into horrible black long deformed grains, which fall to the ground and develop over the winter to infect grasses the following year
« Last Edit: September 01, 2021, 05:11:26 pm by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2021, 05:21:05 pm »
When I was walking my dogs today I was checking out any long grass I saw for ergot. There were definitely some in the verges and round the margins of a field that had been cut for hay. Not great swathes of it,just a few here and there. The botanist that I spoke to at SAC said it has been a bad year for it and she has also spotted it in verges etc. I am hoping that the conclusion will be that small amounts are pretty routine and there isn't enough in my field to be a serious problem, but I'll wait and see what the agri consultant says. He's already ruled out baling and burning because he said a lot of the ergots would fall to the ground in the process, and topping would definitely be of no benefit now it's actually there, because that wouldn't remove it.

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Ergot
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2021, 05:26:57 pm »
[
[/quote]
Congratulations on your perseverance, @Zan .  I've never heard of this fungus, wouldn't know what to look for
[/quote
It took most of the day in between jobs! I wasn't going to give up though .
I had heard of ergot vaguely in relation to people going mad from eating infected bread in the middle ages, but I had no idea it was still about, and certainly no idea that it could be a problem to livestock in grass. I did a lot of googling over the weekend and it was pretty depressing, though most cases seem to relate to them eating it in grain.

 

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