Mycotoxins in feed; Now what?
Test results came back positive for molds in feeds... What can you do?
Just remember that your best defense is knowledge. Gather information about what is happening in your area and, most importantly, sample and analyze frequently throughout the harvest season and periodically in warm weather during feed out for toxins likely to be a risk to your business.
In general, if counts are extremely high in the feed, dilution and limiting the feed to at-risk animals is often necessary. Other broad-spectrum actions can include feeding gut health additives and a binder that targets the specific mycotoxin. In our experience, a combination of feed management, immune support, inoculants, along with a future prevention plan offers the most protection to cow health and production.
- Limit feeding to higher risk ingredients to most vulnerable animals. Based on your test results and the type of mold or molds, carefully observe animals getting the known contaminated feeds and dilute as much as possible. Stressed animals, youngstock, and reproducing animals are most at risk. For ingredients you can’t avoid feeding, dilution is the solution. Certain tactics for dilution can include separating and discarding fines, blending down with clean feedstuffs to reduce concentration, and piling silage after defacing and before adding to a mixer wagon.
- Support for the immune system. Mycotoxins, once consumed, often trigger an immune response, and suppress a cow’s ability to fight off infection and disease. The digestive tract and gut play a significant role in mitigating mycotoxins once in the body. Gut health additives such as a yeast and antioxidants (vitamin E, AOX, selenium) can boost the immune system.
- Feed a binder when aflatoxins are present. A mycotoxin binder is a substance that is added to animal feed in small quantities to trap mycotoxins, preventing them from entering the blood stream where they can cause serious harm to your animals. This process is known as adsorption and is a suitable strategy for aflatoxins, but it is not an efficient method to counteract, fumonisins, zearalenone, or DON. Therefore, we encourage using a mold test over a yeast count test for finding and treating feeds and animals.
- Include organic acids in rations that inhibit yeast and mold. A three-acid blend of acetic, benzoic, and propionic acids can help to control yeast populations and protect your rations against mold and mildew growth. This tactic benefits the feed in front of your cows by reducing nutrient loss due to yeast and mold growth and enhancing dry matter intake by lactating cows during heat stress.
- Prevention can be worth more than a cure. The most common route of mycotoxin exposure is through the consumption of contaminated feeds, making crop quality a critical factor in the development of mycotoxicosis in animals. Prevention starts in the field where molds are always present. It is as simple as understanding your crop and its environment. What is the proper soil nutrient profile for your plant? Is there an opportunity to plant a hybrid that offers disease resistance? What management practices, like till or no-till and crop rotation, are being implemented?
While no animal diet can be guaranteed to be free of toxins, these key principles can be applied to reduce the risk and impact of molds and mycotoxins.