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Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Craig Lab Research Continues to Help Farmers

October 29th, 2014
Dr. Morrie Craig discusses current research to address endophyte toxicity in feed grasses.

Dr. Morrie Craig explains current research to address endophyte toxicity in feed grasses to Hiroyuki Kobayashi from Zen-Noh, a Japanese agricultural cooperative.

Fifteen years ago, one of Oregon’s major export crops faced a crisis: straw shipped to Japan for animal feed contained a fungus that caused disease in thousands of Japanese cows. Dr. Morrie Craig, professor of toxicology in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), responded to the crisis by working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a safety threshold measurement for endophyte fungus in feed grasses. This led to the establishment of the Endophyte Service Laboratory at OSU, where growers and suppliers can send samples for testing. The lab was able to guarantee safe feed, and helped rebuild the export market for feed grasses in Japan.

Last month, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, from the Feed & Livestock Production division of Zen-Noh, visited Dr. Craig at OSU to talk about other solutions to the endophyte fungus issue. Zen-Noh is a $54 billion Japanese agricultural cooperative, and one of the world’s largest importers of animal feed from the Pacific Northwest.

Now searching for a solution to endophyte toxicity, Dr. Craig’s lab, in collaboration with CVM professors Dr. Lynda Blythe and Dr. Charles Estill, is conducting research to develop a probiotic that could be fed to cattle to breakdown the toxins in endophyte fungus.

Lactobacillus, and other ‘beneficial’ bacteria commonly used in human probiotics, cannot flourish in the anaerobic environment of a cow’s rumen. The Craig lab is working on a method to encapsulate the probiotic to make it effective. “We have to make M & M candies out of them,” says Craig.

The lab has been working with a commercial company on this, and has a patent-pending for a process that uses polymers and wax. The next step will be to quantify the effectiveness of the process. Eventually, it will be tested on ruminants, with a long-term goal of producing a product that can be sold commercially.

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