Incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers and liveweight gain in lambs grazing different mixtures of ryegrass-cocksfoot pastures


  • M.G. Hyslop
  • M.W. Fisher
  • D.R. Smith
  • M.W.A. Slay
  • C.A.M. Moffat
  • P.D. Johnstone



Livestock grazing ryegrass infected with endophytic fungi are susceptible to staggers, a neurological disorder characterised by uncoordinated movement and loss of appetite. A possible strategy to minimise staggers is to dilute the toxic effects of ryegrass by providing other non-toxic pasture species in the diet. Therefore, the incidence and severity of ryegrass staggers, and liveweight gain, was monitored in lambs grazing varying mixtures of ryegrass-cocksfoot pastures during four six-week periods throughout summer and autumn over two years. There was a significant effect of pasture type on staggers. On a scale of 0 (no staggers) to 5 (severe muscular tremors invariably resulting in collapse and tetanic spasm), pure ryegrass resulted in a mean of 3.1, S.E.M. + 1.6 compared with 0.3, S.E.M. + 0.9 with pure cocksfoot. Ryegrass/cocksfoot mixtures were slightly less toxic than pure ryegrass with means (+ S.E.M.) ranging from 2.2, S.E.M. + 1.6 to 2.9, S.E.M. + 1.8. Mean liveweight gains ranged from 62 g/d on both pure ryegrass and 80:20 ryegrass:cocksfoot mix, to 83 g/d on pure cocksfoot, with no significant effect of pasture type. In those periods when ryegrass staggers was significant, the percentage of ryegrass in the sward was positively related to the severity of staggers and negatively correlated with liveweight gain. The inclusion of cocksfoot in ryegrass-dominant pastures is thus able to reduce to some extent the adverse neurological effects of endophyte on lambs. Keywords: cocksfoot, endophyte, lambs, liveweight gain, ryegrass, ryegrass staggers




Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>