Ergot Alkaloids in Feed for Pekin Ducks: Toxic Effects, Metabolism and Carry Over into Edible Tissues
Hardened sclerotia (ergots) of Claviceps purpurea contaminate cereal grains and contain toxic ergot alkaloids (EA). Information on EA toxicity in ducks is scarce. Therefore, the aim of the growth experiment (Day 0–49, n = 54/group) was to titrate the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) for total ergot alkaloids (TEA). A control diet was prepared without ergots, and the diets designated Ergot 1 to 4 contained 1, 10, 15 and 20 g ergot per kg diet, respectively, corresponding to TEA contents of 0.0, 0.6, 7.0, 11.4 and 16.4 mg/kg. Sensitivity of ducks to EA was most pronounced at the beginning of the experiment when feed intake decreased significantly by 9%, 28%, 41% and 47% in groups Ergot 1 to 4, respectively, compared to the control group. The experiment was terminated after two weeks for ducks exposed to Ergot 3 and 4 due to significant growth retardation. Ergot alkaloid residues in edible tissues were lower than 5 ng/g. Bile was tested positive for ergonovine (=ergometrine = ergobasine) with a mean concentration of 40 ng/g. Overall, the LOAEL amounted to 0.6 mg TA/kg diet suggesting that ducks are not protected by current European Union legislation (1 g ergot/kg unground cereal grains).