It’s been said that two things in life are unavoidable — death and taxes. Farmers might add a third to the list: mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are produced by certain molds while a crop is still in the field or as it’s stored, transported or manufactured into feed. Given the inevitability of mold and mycotoxins, Phibro Animal Health Corporation is hosting a seven-part webinar series to provide row crop farmers and livestock producers with tips on preventing, recognizing and mitigating mycotoxin contamination before it ends up in animal feedstuffs.
Dr. Dennis Nuzback, consultant to Phibro Animal Health Corporation, hosts a free MYCOmpass™ webinar titled “Smart Strategies for Effective Mycotoxin Management,” which is available at Phibro Academy (academy.pahc.com) and can be accessed here: https://academy.pahc.com/catalog/info/id:353.
“Many farmers associate a particularly hot and dry growing season or a cold and wet harvest with risk of mycotoxins — and while those conditions are conducive to mold, the story doesn’t end there,” says Nuzback. “In 2002, Jean Pierre Jouany identified 21 critical points of grain production, from field to feed, where mycotoxins can enter the picture. Failure at just one of them may lead to the occurrence of mycotoxins, meaning that dealing with them is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”
In his webinar, Nuzback provides insights on recognizing signs of potential mycotoxin contamination to livestock, confirming the issue and mitigating their impact.
“If left untreated, mycotoxins can affect an animal’s liver, along with reproductive, nervous and pulmonary systems,” warns Nuzback. “Affected animals may present clinical signs such as reduced performance or transient diarrhea, but compromised liver function and immunosuppression may also occur in the animal during a mycotoxicosis, and these are not as easy to detect.”
In one 2013 study, 965 feed samples were analyzed for mycotoxins, according to the Aspergillus website, and 98% contained one or more mycotoxins. But where there’s one, there are typically more: 95% of feed samples showed two or more mycotoxins, and 40% showed five or more.
“These samples were biased in that they were being tested for mycotoxins by concerned producers, so it’s not surprising that contamination was detected in the vast majority of them,” Nuzback says. “The bigger takeaway here is that if you suspect one, you likely have others, and mitigating multiple mycotoxins is more challenging.”
Nuzback suggests that producers should suspect mycotoxin contamination if they are seeing noticeable changes in fecal consistencies or a decrease in animal performance or production and the following scenarios apply:
- If dairy producers have recently changed forage or grain supplies from the previous crop year to the current one.
- If poultry and swine producers have recently changed grain bins or grain suppliers.
“While it’s impossible to eliminate the threat of mycotoxin contamination entirely, producers can help minimize their impact by conducting regular, thorough reviews of their stored feedstuffs for the visual presence of molds,” Nuzback advises. “The presence of mold does not mean that mycotoxins are present. Rather, it indicates a failure in the harvested crop or feed preservation protocols, that failure making it more likely that mycotoxin-producing molds are present and may have produced harmful mycotoxins.”
Mitigating Mycotoxins: Producers Can Take Action
Once present, it’s impossible to remove mycotoxins from contaminated grains or feed entirely. However, Nuzback says producers should first confirm that they have mycotoxin contamination, and second, help reduce mycotoxin concentrations to those below biological impact and regulatory guidance.
- If mold is detected and mycotoxins are suspected, collect representative samples of the suspect feed and send it to a credible lab for analysis (include yeast and mold count and mold ID).
- Begin feeding an adsorbent as soon as mycotoxin suspicions arise and continue while awaiting lab results and for as long as necessary. Consult a veterinarian or animal nutritionist for recommended feeding or inclusion rates.
“Producers should seek a broad-spectrum binding agent and consider an economically priced mitigation agent. If the feed is pelleted, extend the criteria list to include improved pellet durability index. While mycotoxins are almost unavoidable, with a little knowledge, vigilance and mitigation, producers can help safeguard animal health against the threats of mycotoxin contamination.”
Registration for Phibro Academy is free and includes access to Nuzback’s webinar and the entire MYCOmpass™ Mycotoxin Webinar Series; individuals can sign up at academy.pahc.com. To learn more about AB20® specialty product, a bentonite adsorbent that reduces caking and flowability issues, visit pahc.com.
About Phibro Animal Health Corporation
Phibro Animal Health Corporation is a diversified global developer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of animal health and mineral nutrition products for livestock, helping veterinarians and farmers produce healthy, affordable food while using fewer natural resources. For more information, visit www.pahc.com.