Ergot/mycotoxin webinar

Dr. Max F. Hawkins

Dr. Max F. Hawkins held a webinar for BNSGA members and other interested producers Thursday, April 30 to discuss ergot and other mycotoxins that affect cattle. To view a replay of the webinar, go click here.

Dr. Hawkins works with the Alltech Mycotoxin Management Team providing Risk Assessment and Technical Support at all levels. He brings years of experience that includes not only mycotoxin management but livestock production, nutrition, breeding and genetics covering all livestock species. His past experiences have included the University of Illinois, University of Tennessee, Morehead State University, California Polytechnic State University, National Swine Registry, Continental Grain Company, Hubbard Feeds and Micron Bio-Systems.

In addition to his duties with Alltech’s Mycotoxin Management Team, he provides support to Alltech customers around the world. Dr. Hawkins and his wife reside in Noblesville, IN.

For more information about Alltech, visit their website,


Dr. Max Hawkins

"Peanut" calves

Are you having tiny calves this spring?

Greetings all you cattle people,

           There are many topics I want to discuss. One topic is meat at the grocery store sky high and live cattle prices are dismal.  And now individual ranches must perform spring branding without outside labor when following COVID-19 guidelines.  But, I will leave these and many more discussions for another time and as soon as there is a solution to them.

           Today I want to talk about peanut calves. These are the small full-term calves that are born at about 30-45 lbs., teeth fully erupted and mothers in good condition with lots of milk. These small weak muscled babies require a lot of extra care and some will die anyway. They stand out when their herd mates are born at 85 lbs. with good muscling. 

I spoke to Lynn Perry about this, and he said many producers across his market area have reported a high percentage of peanut calves this spring. I contacted Dawn Schooley, nutrition consultant and territory manager for Alltech. she asked if last summer I had seen any blooming grass with black on the seed heads. I had seen some. Climate Change is affecting our pasture and allowing ERGOT to infect our grass. I had never thought ERGOT could infect grass pastures and always thought it was a fungus found on grain. She reports that in the last two years, pastures in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota reported much higher levels than ever. An abundance of heavy snow, followed by a wet spring, have been the perfect breeding ground for ERGOT.

At lower levels of ERGOT Toxicity, it restricts blood flow to the placenta which can affect fetal growth and muscle development. At moderate levels, it can cause tails and feet to slough off.  At Higher levels, it will kill. I ask you to inspect your pastures as the grass begins to flower, as that’s when ERGOT will infect the plant and begin to develop Sclerotia in the seed head. Grasses will flower in June and July before the real heat of summer. ERGOT can bioaccumulate in animals, so some cows can be affected more than others, depending on levels of intake.

           A producer can provide a mycotoxin binder thru cake, mineral, tubs and pellets at a cost of $0.05/hd/day for 90 days, totals $4.50 per head. Your feed specialist can provide you with a good mycotoxin binder in whatever form works best for you.

           This looks like the third spring in a row that will have the perfect conditions for the spread of ERGOT. I believe that we had one or two peanut calves in 2019, and five or six peanut calves thus far this spring. So, it is possible to have much higher levels of ERGOT in our pastures this year. I am going to invest in a mycotoxin binder to hopefully prevent peanut calves and, more importantly, to prevent tails and feet sloughing off or even death of my animals if it does turn out to be a year for a big ERGOT bloom. I am going to prepare for the worst and pray for the best.

           Our world is threatened by the smallest virus, bacterium, fungus and mold. On Wednesday, I had to make another hay run to the Blood Tribe Agriculture Program and was listening to the Blood Tribe Radio Station as the elders spoke of COVID-19. Several elders explained that God was “whipping” humanity like a parent would do to a naughty child because mankind is abusing the earth and each other to become wealthy. 

They were praying that the nations of the world would learn from this whipping. Now is the time to become rich in love and kindness for each other and our Earth Mother and use our gift of life to create a better world for our descendants. 

Good luck and hoping your branding days are joyful and your pastures are green and lush. Please keep healthy and raise a beautiful set of calves.

                                                                                  Joe Kipp, BNSGA Chair


BNSGA youth member Kadence Bradley shows off her 30 pound baby.