Research Results Expected to Change How Ergot Toxicity is Evaluated

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Farmscape for November 9, 2022

Full Interview 11:49 Listen

Research conducted by the University of Saskatchewan looking at the effect of feed processing on ergot toxicity is expected to change how feed samples are analysed. In an effort to reduce the toxicity of ergot contaminated feed, researchers with the University of Saskatchewan examined the ability of heat and steam to alter the epimer ratio of the ergot. Dr. Denice Beaulieu, an assistant professor Monogastric Nutrition with the University of Saskatchewan, explains the r-epimer was believed to be more toxic than the s-epimer so the hypothesis was that pelleting, steam explosion or extrusion would decrease the overall toxicity by changing the epimer ratios.

Clip-Dr. Denice Beaulieu-University of Saskatchewan:
We did see that with extrusion or steam explosion, we were indeed changing the epimer profile. We were decreasing what we called the more active, the r-epimer and increasing what we thought to be the more inactive s-epimer. We did see effects of ergot. We saw no effects of processing so we conclude that the r-epimer and the s-epimer are both toxic. Now that we’ve shown that both epimers have equal toxicity, that means that we should be measuring both epimers in these samples. What we thought might have been only two ppm in a sample because we were only measuring the r-epimer, if we measure both epimers, is actually four ppm. This has implications for the analysis of the amount of ergot in our feeds and, when we’re looking at older data, trying to compare the older data where they may or may not have only been determining one epimer. It’s sometimes hard to determine that from what they describe in their paper but it’s very hard to compare our current work to the older work now that we know both epimers share toxicity.

Dr. Beaulieu acknowledges there’s still lots to learn about the effects and toxicity of these ergot alkaloids.

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