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Any number of harvest, storage and handling practices can set the stage for mold and mycotoxin growth, which can be detrimental and potentially dangerous for livestock. From the fields to feed bins, mycotoxins pose challenges. But with a little background and knowledge, livestock producers can better prevent, recognize and manage mycotoxin contamination. That’s the reason behind Phibro’s seven-part MYCOmpass™ webinar series, which brings together the industry’s top experts in molds and mycotoxins to educate livestock producers and nutritionists about the issue.
In the first of these webinars, Dr. Lon Whitlow, professor emeritus, NC State University, leads a webinar titled “An Introduction to Mold and Mycotoxins: Toxic Effects and Preventative Management” to provide producers with mold and mycotoxins identification, prevention and treatment techniques. The webinar is available for free at Phibro Academy (academy.pahc.com), Phibro Animal Health Corporation’s digital information platform, and can be accessed here: https://academy.pahc.com/catalog/info/id:349.
“Under certain conditions, mold can form and proliferate in the fields, in storage or in the feed bunks — and where there’s mold, there are often mycotoxins,” states Whitlow. “Given this prevalence, coupled with the immense impact mycotoxin contamination can have on an animal’s immune and reproductive systems, feed intake and production, it’s imperative that producers know the causes of mycotoxins to better recognize and treat the symptoms.”
Mycotoxins: Toxic Effects and Preventative Management
It’s often said that “knowledge is power.” In his webinar, Whitlow arms producers with some basic mycotoxin knowledge:
- In the field, mycotoxins are routine and are the byproducts of stressed molds. Insects, disease, low soil fertility and excess water can set the stage for mold growth, which in turn may produce mycotoxins. Once harvested, crops are subject to molds in storage, so Whitlow advises farmers to aerate dry feeds and properly pack and cover silage. Also, consider mold inhibitors or microbial fermentation aids to keep feed mold-free. “Cold, wet conditions and winter damage can set the stage for molds and mycotoxins, which require water and just a small amount of oxygen,” warns Whitlow, who adds that molds may grow in a wide variety of environments, such as when feedstuff pH is between 4.0-8.0 and when humidity tops 70%. Molds can even grow in the depths of a silo, where there it has just enough oxygen to support growth, even though pH may be low.
- Where you find evidence of one mycotoxin, there are likely more. There are thousands of known mold species, and they may replicate quickly under ideal environmental conditions. Fortunately, approximately 2/3 of molds are non-toxigenic or don’t produce mycotoxins, but the remaining 1/3 may produce more than 500 mycotoxins. “A producer might sample a feed and find one to two mycotoxins reported in the testing results, but when a few are detected, there are likely 20 to 30 mycotoxins present due to the limited number of mycotoxins tested by commercial analytical labs,” says Whitlow.