Effects of different levels of ergot in concentrate on the health and performance of male calves.
ABSTRACT A number of studies dealing with the effects of ergot and ergot alkaloids on the health and performance of poultry and pigs were reported in the past, but only a few studies and field reports are available for ruminants. Therefore, a dose-response study was carried out with calves since young animals are considered to be especially sensitive to ergot.A total of 35 male Holstein calves were randomly assigned to three feeding groups after one month of feeding milk replacer. The mean initial live weight of the calves was 49.4±5.7 kg. One control group was fed an ergot-free concentrate (n=12), one group an ergot proportion of 1000 mg/kg in the concentrate (n=ll), and another group was fed a concentrate containing 5000 mg/kg ergot (n=12). Hay, grass silage and water were available forad libitum consumption, whereas the daily concentrate portion was restricted to 2 kg. Live weight, health parameters and feed intake were monitored over the experimental period of 84 days. In addition, blood samples were taken from theVena jugularis at the beginning and at the end of the experiment and analysed for ergot alkaloids and liver parameters.Total dry matter intake, live weight gain and feed-to-gain ratio were not significantly influenced by increasing ergot proportions when the whole experimental period was considered, although there was a trend for an ergot-related decrease in concentrate intake during the first 6 weeks of the experiment. After this period of time, it seemed that calves got used to the presence of ergot in the concentrate and were able to adjust their intake to the level of the control group. Moreover, health and liver parameters, such as total bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase, glutamate dehydrogenase, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and creatine kinase in the serum were not significantly influenced by dietary treatments. Concentrations of the individual ergot alkaloids in serum were lower than the detection limits of the applied HPLC-method.In conclusion, it can be assumed that an ergot contamination of the concentrate up to 5000 mg/kg resulted in a transient depression of concentrate intake by the calves. However, no significant effects on health and performance could be detected when the entire test period of 84 days was considered.