Bill Hammel, Dairy Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org (507) 273-1882
Molds and mycotoxins have been around since time began and continue to raise the cost of production in dairy and beef production. The species vary with region and crop but all plant materials are subject to mold growth including standing crop, stored grains, silages, and even bedding. A few of the most common ones are DON, Zearalenone, T-2 toxin Fumosisin B, and Aflatoxins. There is no test on this later so don’t worry.
Weather extremes, field stress, storage conditions all are causes and can be complicated by the fact that these are ration ingredients that are hard to replace and dilute. Keeping ash content low (difficult to do in wet conditions) can help lessen the chance of elevated toxin levels. In addition proper harvest moistures, storage procedures, rodent control, and cleanliness around the feed mixing area are critical.
Consequences of high mold and mycotoxin levels can be quite drastic. Severe loss of production, growth, and even death can result. Thank goodness we rarely, if ever see conditions like this. Elevated levels do their damage in a more insidious way that can be difficult to diagnose. The risk of mycotoxins goes up with low levels of various strains as they can sometimes work together and cause economic damage.
This has been an eye opener for me while working with one of our summer interns, John Wolf. John has been doing forage audits on a few area farms along with Alltech’s premier test for mycotoxins called the 37+ test which is part of Alltech’s Mycotoxin Management Program (MMP). This program analyzes for 37 (actually 38) different mycotoxins in a given feed sample enabling a more thorough understanding of the risk to the animal. The program then gives the sample a Risk Equivalent Quantity (REQ) value which indicates at what level an animal subject to this feed will be affected by taking into consideration what toxins are present at certain levels. It’s been interesting because even if molds are present it doesn’t necessarily mean that mycotoxins will automatically be an issue and if molds are not evident, mycotoxins can still be an issue.
Minimize the Risk
Several steps are very important to minimize the risk of mycotoxins including: Use of proper harvesting practices with regard to crop maturity and moisture levels. Minimize soil contamination by adjusting cutter bar height and using care when merging windrows. Proper chop length and the use of inoculants will aid in storing the crop. Control crop inventory so feed out is fast enough to stay ahead of heating and possible yeast growth. If possible dilute questionable feed and use a preservative to reduce mold growth. We do have some Feed Curb from Kemin on hand which is a buffered prop acid to aid in keeping the heat down in TMR’s.
Alltech has done a lot of work in the area of mycotoxins including the development of a mycotoxin binder called Integral A+. This is a combination of yeast and algae which binds with the mycotoxins while being excreted before doing any damage. Adding Integral A+ at the 10, 20, or 30 gram rate is advisable if you are concerned about possible mycotoxin contamination. If you wish to further explore this topic or are interested in seeing some of the results of John’s summer internship project please let me know at 507-273-1882.