Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
Mitigating Micotoxins

Mitigate Mycotoxin’s Economic Impact With These 4 Tips

Posted July 17, 2019 by ARM & HAMMER

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi commonly found in livestock feed. They can form wherever molds exist—in the field, at harvest, during storage and processing, and even at feed out. Most fungi produce several mycotoxins simultaneously, and there are thousands of different species. While reported prevalence varies, research shows that 48 to 91 percent of all feedstuffs contain detectable levels of at least one mycotoxin.

When feedstuffs contain multiple mycotoxins, their impact can be cumulative, making it harder to mitigate and creating concerns beyond basic gut health. This ripple effect opens the door for opportunistic diseases that negatively impact reproductive performance, cattle immunity, nutrient utilization and overall animal productivity.

It’s even more difficult to identify mycotoxin contamination because symptoms can vary by cow and often seem unrelated. Considering the high prevalence of mycotoxins and the severity of certain species, it’s essential for dairy producers to find ways to alleviate their economic impact.

Consider growing conditions

Climates can affect the severity of mycotoxin contamination. Cool, wet weather favors Fusarium toxins, while heat and humidity encourage aflatoxins produced by Aspergillus. Fusarium toxins are more common in the Northeast and Midwest, while aflatoxins occur frequently in the South and West. If you’re bringing in feedstuffs from other regions, don’t assume rations are mycotoxin-free just because certain mycotoxins aren’t prevalent in your area.

Don’t rely solely on feed analyses

While valuable as a diagnostic tool, feed analyses often underestimate mycotoxin risk. Rather than rely solely on periodic testing, assume mycotoxins are present or will be at some point during the feeding period. Your goal should be to make your herd resilient against the inescapable risk of mycotoxins in every bite every day.

The intestines are the initial line of defense and the first part of the cow to be exposed to mycotoxins, often at higher concentrations than other tissues. Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal lining is crucial, ensuring nutrients are absorbed at an optimum rate and protecting the body against pathogens through its own immune system.1

Be proactive

Dairy producers should consider a similar approach to how they handle subclinical milk fever and ketosis: Acknowledge mycotoxin risk and proactively protect the gut from damage.

Refined Functional Carbohydrates (RFCs) help counteract mycotoxins and prevent them from being absorbed through the gut and into the blood circulation. This reduces the negative influence of mycotoxins that can decrease dairy performance.

RFCs Can Mitigate Mycotoxin and Pathogen Damage

The negative effects of mycotoxins on the gut’s immune system can be reduced by beta glucans and mannans present in RFCs, allowing the cow to further protect itself against pathogens. In addition, nutrient uptake is maintained, leading to better feed efficiency and animal performance.

In essence, the RFCs act as an insurance policy and help manage unseen threats, protecting animals from the ill effects of mycotoxins that can occur at any time.

Practice proper harvesting techniques

A complete management plan includes best practices to prevent mold formation in the first place. Follow these steps when harvesting silage:

  • Harvest at the proper crop maturity and moisture level based on your silage hybrid
  • Chop at an optimum length, keeping blades sharp for a consistent cut
  • Achieve adequate packing to eliminate oxygen and facilitate fermentation
  • Seal the bunker properly to keep oxygen out
  • Apply inoculants to speed up the fermentation process and achieve the proper pH and stable anaerobic conditions
  • Use good bunk face management techniques to preserve quality during feed out

For more information on managing the economic impacts of mycotoxins, read about five common mycotoxin myths in a recent Progressive Dairyman article, featuring Neil Michael, ARM & HAMMER Technical Services Manager.

1 Grenier B, Applegate TJ. Modulation of Intestinal Functions Following Mycotoxin Ingestion: Meta-Analysis of Published Experiments in Animals. Toxins 2013;5(2):396-430.

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