Effects of endophyte-infected tall fescue seed and protein supplementation on stocker steers: I. Growth performance and hemodynamic responses.
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Fescue toxicosis is a multifaceted syndrome common in cattle grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue and is detrimental to growth and performance. Recent research has shown that supplementing protein has the potential to enhance growth performance in weaned steers. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of supplemental CP on physiological parameters in stocker steers experiencing fescue toxicosis. Thirty-six weaned Angus steers (6 mo of age) stratified by weight (196.1 3.6 kg) were assigned to a 2 2 factorial arrangement for 56 d: endophyte-free (EF) seed and 14% CP (EF-14; n = 9), EF seed and 18% CP (EF-18; n = 9), endophyte-infected (EI) seed and 14% CP (EI-14; n = 9), and EI seed and 18% CP (EI-18; n = 9). Steer growth and hemodynamic responses were collected weekly during ergot alkaloid exposure. On day 14 of the trial, iButton temperature data loggers were subcutaneously inserted in the lateral neck region to record hourly body temperature for 42 d. Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED of SAS with repeated measures. No differences were observed in DMI, BW, ADG, F:G, or BCS during the treatment period (P > 0.05). Hair shedding scores, rectal temperatures, surface temperatures, and respiration rates were greater in EI steers compared to EF steers regardless of supplemental CP (P < 0.05). However, subcutaneous body temperature was greater in EI-14 steers (37.94 C) compared to other steer groups (37.60, 37.68, 37.72 0.04 C for EF-14, EF-18, and EI-18, respectively; P < 0.05). Prolactin concentrations tended to be greater in EF steers when compared to EI steers (P = 0.07). Heart rate and hematocrit were reduced for EI-18 steers compared to other steer groups (P < 0.05). Caudal artery diameter was reduced in EI-18 steers compared to EI-14 steers (2.60 vs. 2.75 0.05 mm, respectively; P < 0.05) and caudal vein diameter was reduced in EI-18 steers (3.20 mm) compared to all other steer groups (3.36, 3.39, 3.50 mm for EF-14, EF-18, and EI-14, respectively; P < 0.05). However, there was no difference observed in systolic or diastolic blood pressure during the treatment period (P > 0.05). Based on the data, exposure to low to moderate levels of ergot alkaloids during the stocker phase had a negative impact on hemodynamic responses and supplemental CP had minimal impact to alleviate symptoms. Therefore, feeding additional protein above established requirements is not expected to help alleviate fescue toxicosis.