Extreme Processing Reduces Toxicity of Ergot Contaminated Feed

Farmscape for March 1, 2021

Full Interview 8:56 Listen

Early results from work being conducted by the University of Saskatchewan show extreme processing, using heat and steam, has the capacity to reduce the toxicity of ergot contaminated grains. Depending on the level, ergot contaminated grain in the ration can result in symptoms ranging from reduced feed intake and slower growth to death. Dr. Denise Beaulieu, an Assistant Professor Monogastric Nutrition in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, says feeding trials compared the performance of pigs fed ergot contaminated feed that was processed with those fed unprocessed feed.

Clip-Dr. Denise Beaulieu-University of Saskatchewan:
There’s a little bit of evidence in the literature that feed processing with heat and moisture, so pelleting, extrusion, steam explosion for example decreases the toxicity of ergot. We think this happens because ergot is actually a series of compounds, ergot alkaloids, and there’s many of them. We think that processing might change the profile of these alkaloids to ones that are less toxic. We used some screenings from rye and wheat and they were quite heavily contaminated with ergot and the first processing we used was steam explosion, which is really drastic processing using very high levels of steam under severe pressure. When we used this, we did see dramatic changes in both the amount of the alkaloids and also a shift in the alkaloid profile. When we incorporated these screenings into diets for piglets, we did see a decrease in growth and feed intake with the screenings that were not processed and processing, we reduced the toxic effects of the alkaloids with steam explosion.

Dr. Beaulieu says less drastic processing methods, such as extrusion, did not reduce the toxic effects of the ergot. She says researchers are still analysing data and seeking processing methods that will be effective and practical.

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