From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Canadian livestock farmers, particularly those raising dairy calves, are being warned to keep an eye on rising mycotoxin levels in feed.
Samples collected at 40 farms from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island by animal health company Alltech from September 2014 through to the end of last month show trend lines growing over time.
“The risk has increased from low risk at harvest time to a risk that is trending higher as we progress to the late spring and summer months,” says Dr. Max Hawkins, a nutritionist with Alltech’s mycotoxin management team.
Mycotoxins are produced from soil born molds aspergillis, fusarium and penicillium. When stressed by moisture and temperature, these molds produce toxins, called mycotoxins, in the plant and grain. They’re brought to the storage facility with the harvested crop.
There, under the right temperature, moisture and oxygen levels, these mold spores can produce additional mycotoxins.
During the sample period, corn silages averaged 4.24 mycotoxins per sample. All 17 samples contained mycotoxins, and all calves were at moderate to high risk of illness from eating this silage. The moderate-to-high risk was 83 per cent for dairy cows, and almost 65 per cent for beef cattle.
The 29 total mixed ration samples produced similar results, with 4.31 mycotoxins per sample. Again, all calves fed these rations were at moderate to high risk of illness, as were 65 per cent of dairy cows and nearly 45 per cent of beef cattle.
Hawkins says the inclusion rate of corn silage determined the mycotoxin contribution to the TMR.
Many factors affect the storage quality of silages, he says, including crop condition at harvest, percentage of dry matter, packing density, storage environment, moisture level, temperature and exposure to oxygen. So, producers need to be cautious.
“Managers and owners need to monitor silages for mycotoxin levels as well as cattle health and performance traits as these levels of mycotoxins and risks can change quickly,” Hawkins says.
“Dairy and beef producers should keep a watchful eye over the remaining 2014 crop in their bins as both corn silage and total mixed rations are now trending at high risk for mycotoxin contamination.”