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Effects of different levels of ergot in concentrates on the growing and slaughtering performance of bulls and on carry-over into edible tissue

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The aim of the present study was to examine long-term effects of low levels of ergot alkaloids on growing bulls. Natural grown ergot with a mean total alkaloid concentrations of 633 mg/kg, and ergotamine (25%), ergocristine (15%) and ergosine (13%) as the most prominent alkaloids, was used. In a dose-response study 38 Holstein Friesian bulls were fed with three different doses of this ergot (0, 0.45 and 2.25 g/kg concentrate corresponding to an average total alkaloid concentration of the daily ration of 0, 69 and 421 µg/kg DM) over a period of approximately 230 days. Live weight, feed intake and health condition were monitored over the entire test period. The bulls were slaughtered at a live weight of approximately 550 kg. Carcass composition and quality were recorded and samples of liver, muscle, kidneys, fat, bile, urine and blood were analysed for ergot alkaloids. Liver enzyme activities and total bilirubin were measured in the blood. Statistically, no significant differences were detectable between the three feeding groups. Mean live weight gain over all groups was 1.41 kg/d with a mean dry matter intake of 7.35 kg/d. No carry over into tissues could be proved out of the experiment. To derive a no-effect level for beef cattle further research including higher ergot doses will be necessary.

Keywords: Ergot alkaloids; carcass composition; feed intake; growing cattle; liver parameters; weight gain

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Federal Agriculture Research Centre (FAL), Institute of Animal Nutrition, Braunschweig, Germany

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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