News & Advice

Rye Grass Staggers (RGS) – What you need to know

Jan 28, 2016 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Farm systems

The following are the signs of RGS:

  • Cows becoming more irritable in the shed during milking 
  • Cows being more alert when approached in the paddock – head held up higher and cows running or staggering off when surprised 
  • Stumbling or falling over when transitioning from the race onto the concrete yard 
  • Unable to stand 
  • Young stock staggering and having spasms when rounded up for routine procedures.

Prevention/Treatment options 

  • If you have a known annual problem, prevent the problem from developing in the first place! 
  • Since the mycotoxins that cause Ryegrass Staggers are in the endophyte in grass, it makes sense to try to substitute the amount of grass ingested with other feedstuffs to dilute the toxin. Make sure these animals remain fully fed. 
  • Place affected stock in newer pastures as these should contain “new endophytes” (NEA2, AR1, AR37) that cause less Ryegrass Staggers than old pastures with high levels of feral endophyte 
  • Keep animals with Ryegrass staggers calm and handle them quietly, keeping them off concrete yards if possible to prevent injury. 
  • Use mycotoxin binders e.g. Mycofix or Novacil added to mixer wagon loads – as the powder dose per cow is small it needs to be well mixed throughout the supplement being fed. Mycotoxin binders will not completely fix the problem, but may help to alleviate symptoms. 
  • There is anecdotal evidence to support the use of some seaweed based products in reducing the effects of Ryegrass Staggers, but the trial work proving this is very limited at this time.

Where to get help? 

  • Discuss with your local veterinarian the various options you have available to attempt to prevent or control a Ryegrass Staggers problem with your stock 
  • Remember that it is far better to prevent an outbreak as, once full blown staggers is evident, it is far harder to treat and control. The ongoing problems with down and injured stock will steal a lot of your valuable time. 


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