March 5, 2013
Given the current seasonal conditions, the Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group is calling on producers to be mindful of ryegrass staggers (Perennial ryegrass toxicoses). Ryegrass staggers is caused by an endophyte (microscopic fungus) which improves the pasture’s persistence, however also produces toxins as a defence mechanism, causing animal health concerns and reduced production in sheep and cattle. “Producers may be grazing animals harder this time of year due to limited pasture availability. This poses a risk as the toxic fungus is in high concentrations closer to the base of the plant.” Livestock project officer Jacinta Pretty said. “The most common sign is nervous tremors or staggers especially when moving or drafting stock. Loss of coordination, heat stress, general ill-health and poor weight gain in younger animals are other tell-tale signs. “Ryegrass toxicosis can be prevented with strategic animal and pasture management. As there is no specific treatment, early detection and intervention is the best chance of reducing production losses,” Ms Pretty said. The VFF are asking producers to monitor stock closely during the high risk period, from late summer and throughout autumn. “Mildly infected stock should be left alone to recover on their own or quietly moved to safe pastures containing water troughs and not open water such as dams to reduce the risk of drowning. “In more serious cases, stock should be removed from toxic pastures and moved quietly to prevent further stress. Hastening the movement of stock increases staggering causing the animal to collapse and require attention,” Ms Pretty said.