- Little Jo Wheek
"While occasional negative responses of animals consuming tall fescue were observed for several decades, it was not until the late 1970's that the cause of these responses was discovered. Many tall fescue plants are infected with a fungus that grows inside the plant. This fungus is called an endophyte because it is found within tissue and does not affect the outward appearance of the grass. In the scientific community, the tall fescue fungal endophyte was formerly known as Acremonium coenophialum, but has recently been reclassified as Neotyphodium coenophialum.
Interestingly, it is not the fungus itself that is toxic, rather the fungus produces alkaloid(s) that are toxic to animals that consume the plant. Ergot alkaloids are the group of alkaloids produced in endophyte-infected (EI) tall fescue that have definitively been linked to toxic responses in animals."
- Cavies 'n Cobwebs
My pigs have only been getting grass since the beginning of this year as the neighbour's cat used to mess in it constantly, but the poor thing died over the winter. Since starting to feed the grass however, I've always thought that it seemed to be the cause of Sparky's gas or more lethargic periods, and usually she gets softer poop with it too, but Chilli remains largely unaffected.
I can only feed a very small handful between the two before poor Sparky seems to blow up and feel unwell. Even when I've taken her to the vet he says there's not that much gas in her as he could feel all her organs and she didn't seem to complain much at the palpating.
Fescue and its close relative ryegrass are common here as they cope better with the climate and grow in any conditions. My back garden has large patches of it as it's the only stuff that seems to survive the winter, makes a good lawn and mine has been well fertillized this spring. The meadow hay I get for the pigs is also often mainly fescue or ryegrass and Sparky went right off it earlier this year so that's why I started ordering Oxbow timmy hay which has become the favourite.
The pointers that ring bells are the weekend the photos were taken (in piggy pics V) the pigs were out longer than usual and they were in the most sheltered spot which is where the fescue/ryegrass is. The weekend was also hotter than normal (for us) and Sparky appeared not to cope with it very well. She was more slumped, breathing harder and also kept biting her rear feet. Her appetite wasn't so sharp and she drank more water which I just put down to the heat. Later there was much gurgling in her bowels and she blew up and was quite gassy.
I have been thinking it's also possible heart issues or teeth, but of all the info I've read on GL, her symptoms don't seem to match up as she seems to make a quick recovery when there's no grass to offer i.e. when I've cut it.
Perhaps it's just coincidence, but it's certainly one more thing to look out for! Thanks for the heads-up on the fungus issue Lynx, after some research it's not just the US that is affected.