I desire to call the attention of farmers, in this month’s Bulletin, to a somewhat prevalent trouble among cattle. Some recent cases have suggested the topic afresh to my mind, I do not present this in the light of a discovery, or with the impression that the matter will be new to the veterinary profession, nor in fact to many farmers and stock growers. Already not a few of our agricultural people have had sad experience in practical lessons with this disease, which will not admit of forgetfulness for years to come. But all have not had the experience, and all have not heard the warning. Or at least all have not heeded it. I have, from time to time, warned the public through various channels, of this source of loss, its cause and how to avoid it. Let me repeat it once more. Some days ago I received notice that a serious disease prevailed among the cattle on a farm in one of the northwest counties of the state. The farm was situated some distance; from railroad communication, so that a drive of several miles over rather perilous roads was necessary to reach the place. I found, on arriving, a rather disheartening state of affairs for the farmer. In February there were eighty head of cattle on the farm. Since that time, nineteen had died and thirteen more were affected. Many of these had suffered; such mutilation from the disease, that death alone could contribute anything to their value. The remainder of the herd showed no outward signs of having suffered, at least in the same way that had caused the death of the greater number of those already lost. But a general unthrifty condition o f the entire lot, had to be taken into account when estimating: the loss. All things considered, the loss in this herd could not be estimated at much less than fifty per cent of its original value. The crippled condition of the affected individuals, showed itself in the loss of hoofs, toes, and in several instances, one or more feet entire. The history of the cases that had already proved fatal, as given by the farmer, was for the greater part a repetition of what was to be seen among the half living. In some of the cases, the symptoms were more of a constitutional type, unaccompanied by loss of extremities. Emaciation, faulty digestion, nervousness, and finally loss of voluntary motion were among the symptoms given as present in some of the cases. Here were clearly a large number of cases of Ergotism. There could be no mistaking the cause. I inquired as to the quality of forage furnished this stock. I received the answer, “Wild hay cut on bottom land." On pursuing my inquiries farther, I learned that the farmer had cut over a tract of bottom land, rather late in the season. This was wild land, and for the greater part furnished little growth except wild rye. Further investigation developed the fact that the grain of the rye plant was ergotized to a most remarkable degree. It was even sufficient to attract the farmer’ s attention at haying time. But it did not occur to him that this was in any sense a source of danger. Early in February, however, the results began to foe manifest through the class of symptoms I have enumerated. The hay and the disease were not thought of in the order of cause and effect, and the cattle continued to receive their daily ration of slow poison till the commodity was exhausted. Had there been a little more hay or a smaller number of animals, the forage would doubtless have outlasted the herd. Shortage of hay in this instance, proved a prime blessing to the farmer.
Bulletin: Vol. 2
, Article 9.
Available at: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/bulletin/vol2/iss17/9