Mycotoxins are a known issue in dairy operations. Do we truly recognize where they come from, and how much impact they have on our animals? What are the short-term and long-term effects on performance, reproduction, immune function, social behavior as well as the general welfare of our dairy animals? What can we do to help prevent the problems associated with feeding mycotoxin-contaminated feeds and forages?
During the growing or storage seasons, grains can develop different molds when these molds are stressed (in the field and/or in storage), they can produce toxins. Weather can be an indication of which types of toxins are produced. For example, wet and cool seasons are more likely to produce vomitoxin (DON), zearalenone and T-2 toxin. While hot and humid conditions are a breeding ground for fumonisin and aflatoxin. Problematically, toxins can be present in feed even when no mold is seen. North America is especially challenging with large climate fluctuations, and with extensive shipping of DDGS, corn and other diet components, we see sometimes three or more toxins in one feed sample. This drastically changes how we should view the levels of contamination and how we feed our dairy animals.
Mycotoxins have vastly different impact on livestock; for example, poultry can handle significant levels of vomitoxin, whereas pigs and dairy cows handle it very poorly. Dairy cows are sensitive to DON with as small amounts as 300 ppb. Those small amounts can cause digestive upsets, decreased milk production and immunosuppression. Feed contaminated with multiple toxins present can cause many symptoms such as: decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, a decline in reproductive performance, laminitis and a decrease in overall animal health and performance. Mycotoxins can lower the cattle’s ability to protect itself from disease and allow for secondary infections.
Although there is no way to completely get rid of mycotoxins, we can take preventative measures to minimize their impact on cattle by evaluating our ingredients and using appropriate proven supplements.
Invisible mycotoxins in our feed make it exceedingly difficult to prevent problems. Having the insurance of products such as Equalize™ Dairy to supplement the feed with clays, yeast cell walls and other supportive ingredients can help protect your investment from this invisible handicap.
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