Several of our clients have reported cases of ryegrass staggers in their sheep over the last few weeks. The disease is caused by a fungal toxin found on ryegrass and is more commonly seen during a dry summer/autumn as fungal levels are highest in the oldest leaves, close to the ground. Once the toxin is consumed, it affects the brain and nervous system, disrupting normal movement of muscles. Affected animals may look normal at rest, but worsen when stressed, especially whenbeing moved. There may be trembling, shaking, stiff, jerky leg movements and animals falling over. If left to rest most animals will recover quickly, but may still look unsteady when walking. Whilst predominantly seen in sheep, cattle, deer, horses and alpacas can also be affected.
Cases of Ryegrass Staggers can be reduced by managing the pasture and stock carefully:
· Avoid overgrazing on ryegrass.
· Move stock to a different paddock as soon as symptoms appear and avoid grazing these problem pastures.
· Feed out silage or other supplement where possible, to reduce low grazing.
· Keep stock away from areas that could be dangerous to unsteady animals, such as steep ground and water.
· Move stock slowly and quietly, without using dogs or bikes.
· Avoid running stock through the yards more than necessary.
Please get in touch if you think you may have seen some cases of Ryegrass Staggers in your stock or if you have any other questions.