Several meta-analysis studies have proven the negative impact of mycotoxins in feed on animal performance. In the USA, the economic cost due to some of the most common mycotoxins is estimated to be USD 900 million per year.
Having a plan for mycotoxin risk management and putting appropriate tools into action can therefore make a difference to the bottom line of farm operations and return on investment of animal feed.
Take the 6 steps below to minimize the impact of mycotoxins to your operation.
1. Research which mycotoxins are most likely going to cause a risk in your region
There are several sources that can provide you with information on the prevalence of different types of mycotoxins. Some feed companies providing mycotoxin solutions publish the results of mycotoxin surveys carried out world- wide. More independent sources for information include surveys carried out by mycotoxin analysis labs or surveys published in the scientific literature.
Pinotti. et al (2016) Mycotoxin Contamination in the EU Feed Supply
Chain: A Focus on Cereal Byproducts. Toxins — Open Access Toxinology Journal, MDPI, 2016, 8, 45
2. Find out which ingredients are at risk for mycotoxin contamination
Some feed ingredients are more at risk for mycotoxin contamination than others. For example in comparison with corn, soybean meal appears to be less susceptible to mycotoxin contamination. Mycotoxin contamination in DDGS samples is generally greater than in corn. This makes it important to monitor the mycotoxin content of DDGS prior to its inclusion in animal diets.
The risk for mycotoxins will also depend where you are sourcing your ingredients from. Mycotoxin prevalence differ by regions and countries, mainly due to differences in climate.
Again mycotoxin surveys will give you an indication of which areas are at risk.
Mycotoxin prevalence will also differ between harvests. Therefore, it makes sense to look at the most up to date surveys available.
3. Set up a time schedule to analyze feed or feed ingredients for mycotoxins regularly
Mycotoxin analysis should become part of the routine evaluation of feed and feed ingredients. Regular sampling and testing of feed allows picking up any variations in mycotoxin contamination. From a farming perspective, the most critical point is the sampling procedure of feed.
Sampling corn for mycotoxins
The distribution of mycotoxins in a corn lot is usually highly variable, and it can be extremely variable for aflatoxins. For sampling harvested grain, a recommended sampling approach is to collect at least ten probefuls from a number of locations throughout the lot, or at least ten collections from a moving stream of grain. Do not collect a sample from a single location in the lot, as it is highly unlikely that it will be representative of the lot. A ten-pound sample is commonly recommended.
Sampling silage for mycotoxins
To know the quality of the silage that is fed to animals, samples must be collected from the front of the silo, and the procedure should be repeated at different times. For instance, 12-15 sub-samples need to be collected from the front of the silage to form a pool of 500-1000 g as the final sample. It must be underlined that each sample only represents the portion of silage from which it was taken as mycotoxin distribution may change .
4. Find a reliable lab that can carry out mycotoxin analysis for you
There are many test labs available to provide a service for mycotoxin testing. There are also universities and research institutions that provide a mycotoxin analysis service.
5. Check your animals for symptoms of a mycotoxin challenge
There are several symptoms in pigs, poultry and ruminants to look out for that can indicate a mycotoxin challenge is present in your feed. Depending on the types of mycotoxins present, symptoms seen in the animal will differ.
The following slide show provides you with an overview of the different symptoms seen in response to mycotoxins by species.
6. Support your animals to become more resistant to possible mycotoxin challenges
There are several solutions available to apply to animal feed that bind or counteract mycotoxins in the animal to reduce the impact of mycotoxins on animal performance.
New solutions available on the market include formulas to apply to feed that help the animal adapt to nutritional stressors such as mycotoxins and reduce the stress reactions caused by mycotoxins in the animal. This empowers the animal to be more efficient and robust in the face of mycotoxin challenges and other nutritional stressors. It is also effective against a broader range of mycotoxins and against DON in particular, where binders have been known to fail.
Consult your vet and feed advisor to decide what works best for your operations.