Claviceps purpurea (claviceps, rye ergot). A mould belonging to the CLAVICEPTA family. Parasitic fungus growing on rye, oats, other cereals and various grasses. Produces a mass of hyphae protected by a hard, black coat (sclerotia), eventually taking the place of a grain on the head of the cereal; exudes an unpleasant odour. On ripening and harvesting, the ergot detaches itself from the spikelets of grains and becomes mixed in with the healthy seeds or falls to the ground.

[affected.gif] Animals most affected
Cattle, (sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and fowl).

[etiology.gif] Etiology
Livestock fed contaminated grain, seed or fodder containing infected forage crops or grasses. Today poisoning by ergot is considered to be rare due to improved modern farming practices:

However, cereals contaminated with ergot are still to be found in 25-40% of crops, notably after a period of drought.

[toxic.gif] Toxicity
Contains a number of alkaloids, all derivatives of lysergic acid: ergotamine, ergotoxine (which is composed of a mixture of alkaloids), ergometrine (ergonovine or ergobasine) with vasoconstrictive, sympathomimetic and oxytocic effects; amines and other nitrogenous compounds.death through paralysis of the respiratory centres.
Oral doses are not well documented, g contaminated feed by mouth:

11 000 over a period of 2 months
  poultry,pigeons 6-15
  ducks 60
TD horses 500
  cattle 100/day for 11 days

[clinical.gif] Clinical features
Acute form
(Comparatively rare):  

Chronic form

[treatm~1.gif] Treatment
There is no specific treatment and no antidote for ergot poisoning: