The ability of a yeast-derived cell wall preparation to minimize the toxic effects of high-ergot alkaloid tall fescue straw in beef cattle

M. L. Merrill, D. W. Bohnert, D. L. Harmon, A. M. Craig, F. N. Schrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Two experiments were conducted to evaluate the influence of a yeast-derived cell wall preparation (YCW) on forage intake and digestibility, ruminal fermentation characteristics, serum prolactin and prolactin stores, and milk production in beef cattle consuming high-alkaloid tall fescue straw. In Exp. 1, 16 ruminally cannulated Angus x Hereford steers (200 ± 6 kg of BW) were blocked by BW and within block were assigned to 1 of 4 treatments containing YCW at 0, 20, 40, or 60 g/d. Tall fescue straw (579 μg of ergovaline/kg of DM) was provided at 120% of the previous 5-d average intake, with soybean meal used as a CP supplement. In the 29-d digestion study, total DM, OM, and NDF intakes and DM, OM, and NDF digestibilities were not affected by YCW supplementation (P > 0.13). Linear decreases in ruminal indigestible ADF outflow (P = 0.10) and liquid dilution rate (P = 0.03) were noted as YCW increased. Weekly serum prolactin was not affected by treatment (P > 0.50), but prolactin stores increased linearly as YCW increased (P = 0.05). In Exp. 2, 60 Angus x Hereford cows (517 ± 5 kg of BW; approximately 200 d of gestation) were stratified by BCS (5.0 ± 0.1) and randomly assigned to the same 4 YCW treatments as in Exp. 1 (447 μg of ergovaline/kg of DM, high-alkaloid straw), but with the addition of a low-alkaloid straw (149 μg of ergovaline/kg of DM; no YCW supplementation) as a control. Cows were provided ad libitum access to straw, and diets were supplemented with soybean meal daily. One cow was removed from the 40 g/d treatment because of clinical signs of fescue foot. No differences (P > 0.20) were observed in pre-or postcalving BCS change or postcalving BW change. Control cows gained more BW (P = 0.02) precalving compared with cows given 0 g/d of YCW. A linear increase (P = 0.04) in milk production at 60 d postpartum was observed as YCW increased. Serum prolactin postcalving and the change from initial to postcalving increased linearly (P = 0.02 and P = 0.06, respectively) with increasing YCW supplementation. In addition, postcalving serum prolactin was less for 0 g/d of YCW compared with the control (P = 0.003) and 20 g/d of YCW (P = 0.04). The YCW seemed to alleviate the prolactin depression normally associated with fescue toxicosis and therefore has the potential to be used successfully with other management practices when feeding or grazing high-alkaloid tall fescue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2596-2605
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Cattle
  • Ergot alkaloid
  • Ergovaline
  • Prolactin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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