Date of Award
Master of Science
The present investigation was designed to investigate the use of blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) in amelioration of fescue toxicosis in beef cattle. Twenty-seven crossbred Angus cows were blocked by age and weight into groups of three. Each group (n=9) was then randomly assigned to one of three dietary treatments: endophyte-free (EF), endophyte-infected (EI), or endophyte-infected with addition of cut and stemmed blessed thistle (EIBT). Each group was also randomly assigned to one of three 29-day replicates. Parameters measured during this trial included: urinary ergot alkaloid concentration (ng ergot alkaloids/mg creatinine), body weight (kg), rectal temperature (°C), serum progesterone (ng/ml), and serum prolactin (ng/ml). No effect of treatment (P>0.05) was detected in any of these parameters. A treatment x time interaction (P<0.0001) was observed for progesterone concentrations, likely a result of estrous cyclicity of cows. Results of this study suggest that we were unsuccessful in inducing fescue toxicity in test subjects assigned to EI and EIBT treatments. Minimal dietary ergovaline (1.72 μg kg-1) and cool ambient temperatures (-6.7°C to 23.3°C) likely contributed to this inability. Data from this research do suggest, however, that C. benedictus can be successfully incorporated into cattle diets. Further research will need to be performed to fully elucidate what, if any, benefits blessed thistle can have in the treatment of fescue toxicity.
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