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J Anim Sci. 1995 Mar;73(3):899-908.

Equine fescue toxicosis: signs and solutions.

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  • 1Clemson University, SC 29634-0361, USA.


Gravid mares grazing endophyte-infested (E+) tall fescue exhibit increased gestation lengths, agalactia, foal and mare mortality, tough and thickened placentas, weak and dysmature foals, increased sweating during warm weather, reduced serum prolactin and progesterone, and increased serum estradiol-17 beta levels. Also, E+ tall fescue hay is less digestible than endophyte-free (E-) hay. Unlike many other species, horses consuming E+ tall fescue do not exhibit increased body temperature. Young horses consuming only E+ pasture do not gain as well as those consuming E- pasture. There is little difference in gain when the pasture is supplemented with enough concentrate to meet NRC requirements for growth. Neither selenium injections nor supplementing with corn at 50% of the NRC requirements for energy reduces the effects of toxic tall fescue on reproduction and lactation in gravid mares. It seems that the alkaloids of E+ tall fescue are serving as D2 dopamine receptor agonists. This activity would explain their prolactin-lowering effect. Domperidone, a dopamine receptor antagonist, is effective in preventing the signs of tall fescue toxicosis in horses without neuroleptic side effects.

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