Rye Grass staggers
Rye Grass Staggers is becoming a major problem in NZ pasture since
the rampant growth of the dairy industry caused rye grass to be planted
everywhere, it is a neurological disease that can affect sheep, cattle,
horses and ponies, deer and alpacas.
It occurs commonly throughout the North Island and as far south as
North Ota go. It is prevalent in North Canterbury. It is most common
in summer and autumn.
The disease is caused by the ingestion of a toxin produced by a
fungus (or endophyte) in perennial ryegrass. The highest concentrations
of toxin are in the leaf sheath and seed head
In horses, the most common sign is an increase in spooky behaviour.
It is thought that the toxin causes the horse to hallucinate. This
can become very dangerous as the horses reaction to the most mundane
thing - such as a blade of grass moving, can be extreme.
What can you do?
Remove the horse from hazardous pasture if you can.
If safe pasture is not available, put the horse into yards and
feed them non rye grass hay (or silage/baylage) and plenty of
The best long term solution in areas where the disease is a
problem is to replace the affected ryegrass pasture with endophyte-resistant
I find a product called Feed Aid works very well and is reasonably
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