Weather conditions across much of the Midwest this spring and summer been favorable for development of ergot fungus in pastures, according to specialists at Iowa State University.

The fungus, which can affect small grains such as rye, wheat, barley and oats, and forage grasses such as smooth brome and fescue, produces toxic alkaloids that can lead to poisoning in cattle.

In response to the risk of ergot this year, ISU Extension beef veterinarian Grant Dewell and veterinary toxicologist Steve Ensley have put together a two-page fact sheet that describes ergot poisoning, including identifying pasture or hay samples and recognizing clinical signs in cattle, along with diagnosis, treatment and prevention information. The ergot fact sheet is available online from the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine. Go to: