Warm Winter Could Affect Tall Fescue Toxicosis in Broodmares

Mild weather could be behind higher-than-average ergovaline concentrations in tall fescue in Central Kentucky pastures.
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Warm Winter Could Affect Tall Fescue Toxicosis in Broodmares
Tall fescue toxicosis in broodmares, which is caused by ingesting the toxin ergovaline, is rare in the early months of the year due to typically cold winter temperatures. | Photo: iStock

Mild weather this winter could be the cause of higher than average concentrations of a toxic substance in tall fescue that has been observed in Fayette and Bourbon County pastures in Central Kentucky, say University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, Food and Environment experts.

Tall fescue toxicosis in broodmares, which is caused by ingesting the toxin ergovaline, is rare in the early months of the year due to typically cold winter temperatures.

Naturally occurring tall fescue is often infected with an endophytic fungus that can produce ergovaline, a known vasoconstrictor—something that causes the narrowing of blood vessels. This has been blamed for prolonged gestation and low milk production in late-term pregnant mares. The UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program sampled three farms in Fayette and Bourbon counties this year and found a handful pastures with higher-than-average ergovaline concentrations for the time of year

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