Beware of bad seed

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In December 2008, NLPR discovered foreign matter in a couple of sacks of sunflower seed, purchased from Rob Harvey but the main supplier is Bartholomews seeds.  The foreign matter resembled dried rodent droppings. We had fed one third of the sack to our birds before discovering the foreign matter.  We immediately stopped feeding the seed and contacted Harvey, who informed Bartholomews of the problem.  After viewing the images we sent, Bartholomews said the foreign matter was ergot and harmless to birds.  Check out the harmful affects of ergot poisoning and you’ll see that it is indeed harmful to people, cattle and most other living creatures.

Unconvinced, we made futile attempts to locate a laboratory that could analyse the foreign matter. We later enlisted the help of our avian veterinarian, who soon found a government scientific laboratory capable of undertaking this work.  On our behalf, she submitted the samples mid-March 2009.  Please read the following pdf laboratory results foreign-matter-in-seed.pdf

Although the foreign matter is neither ergot nor rodent droppings, the Worcestershire County Council scientific laboratory report states: "While the mould may not be harmful if fed to a bird, its presence in the feed is clearly undesirable and indicative of poor quality." "May not" be harmful leaves the possibility for it to be "harmful". The report concludes its findings as "poor quality" seed, which is potentially harmful to a parrot's health.  Scientific evidence warns against the feeding of poor quality seed for health reasons. As a rule, NLPR only feed seeds fit for human consumption and the sunflower was treated with a propionic powder called “Monoprop” to eliminate mycotoxins/aflatoxins which might have been our saving grace.

Regardless, however, it was around the same time when one of our blue and yellow macaws showed signs of a digestive disorder. Preliminary laboratory test of her faeces showed 100% gram positive for cocci, which often occurs in the gut of parrots that predominantly feast on seeds. It is unclear whether seeds naturally cause this condition or whether it is due to bacteria or fungal contaminations that easily occur during transport and storage. We are very mindful of contaminated seeds causing gut, liver and kidney infections, some of which are fatal. It is wise to avoid purchase of loose seed from pet shops. We will never buy this seed again and will stick to high quality, human grade seeds.

Whilst we cannot prove there is a related connection with the digestive disorder of the macaw and the poor quality seed we unknowingly but initially fed to our parrots, the possibility is not entirely dismissive.

Ending note: The macaw recovered with several weeks treatment of a probiotic to re-balance the gut flora and natural immune system boosters. We do feed our birds a wide variety of fresh healthly foods and Harrison's pellets. We use Vetark supplements where necessary, but unfortunately a few of our rescued parrots are 'seed junkies'.

Monoprop is non-toxic, non-corrosive presentation of propionic acid powder for elimination of moulds and mycotoxins in feed – seeds, grains and nuts. Purchased from www.pharmaq.no from their “Webshop” under ‘Cage & Aviary’.