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Rye grass staggers

Rye grass staggers is a nervous disease of sheep, cattle, horses, deer and alpacas.

It is commonly seen during the summer and autumn period. Stock grazing rye grass ingest endophyte toxins which are present in all parts of the rye grass plant, but are in especially high concentrations in the leaf sheath and oldest leaves.  So the lower the plant is grazed, the more toxin the animal will ingest if the right type of endophyte is present.


Alpacas are particularly sensitive to this neurological disease.  Progression of signs can include head shaking or tremoring, stiffness or high-stepping gaits, staggering or other gait abnormalities and in severe cases, falling over.  Usually the animal appears normal until excited or agitated.  

Although distressing to observe the alpaca will not be affected in any material way unless they have an accident such as falling into a water-way, getting tangled in a fence or any similar mishap.  They key is to prevent accidents occurring in affected animals

There is no 100% effective treatment other than to provide plenty of uncontaminated feed. This is often hard in a dry summer when grass is short but grass silage, hay or alpaca nuts will be ideal.

Things that may help alpaca to cope with or recover from a bout of rye grass staggers include B vitamins, "Summer Tonic" or other salt mixes.  

Contact your veterinarian for further advice