Are DON levels in wheat a concern for swine producers in the UK and Ireland?

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/ollinka
© istock/ollinka

Related tags Mycotoxin Mycotoxins

Nutriad, in its analysis of wheat samples from the UK and Ireland this year, found notable deoxynivalenol (DON) contamination, at levels ten times higher than the maximum concentrations found for that mycotoxin in the 2015 survey.

“Not only were more samples positive this year, the levels of DON concentration in the wheat samples were higher; the contamination likely resulted from the excessive humidity in those markets this year. 

Annual survey​ 

The Belgian company conducts an annual survey of mycotoxin load in various crops in different regions.

In the latest UK and Ireland review, Nutriad said it carried out over 500 analyses of 66 samples to test for the occurrence of the eight mycotoxins most frequently found in cereals used in animal production.

As well as evaluating for the presence of DON and ZEN, the company said the survey provides an insight into the incidences of aflatoxin B1 (AfB1), T-2 toxin, HT-2 toxin, fumonisin B1 (FB1), fumonisin B2 (FB2) and ochratoxin A (OTA). All analyzed samples were wheat.

Typically, levels of DON and zearalenone in wheat tend to be lower in northern England and Scotland; moderate in western England, Wales and Ireland and highest in southern and south-eastern England.

“The maximum concentrations found, at 1100 µg/kg, are more what you would expect in corn. Corn always has a higher DON load compared to wheat due to the different harvesting periods.​ In 2014 and 2015 the maximum levels of DON found in wheat samples in the UK and Ireland were 280 and 145 µg/kg​ respectively,”​ Radka Borutova, business development manager, Nutriad told us.

And she said livestock producers, particularly in the swine sector, should evaluate wheat inputs carefully for DON load. “That toxin can negatively influence feed intake, and cause feed refusal in sows, piglets and finishing pigs,”​ said Borutova.

The rate of contamination by zearalenone (ZEN) in the UK and Irish wheat samples this year was also higher than in the past two previous years.

“The maximum level of ZEN contamination seen this time out – at concentrations of 810 µg/kg​ - is excessive when compared to 2014 and 2015, when the maximum levels of ZEN in wheat found were 28 and 32 µg/kg​,” ​she said.

ZEN contamination of feed is a concern for ruminant producers as it is converted by protozoa to α-zearalenol (α-ZOL) in the rumen, potentially leading to reproductive problems in dairy cows.

nutriad sample survey DON and ZEN levels in the UK and Ireland
Chart showing comparison between 2014, 2015 and 2016 of DON and ZEN concentrations found from Nutriad's annual UK and Ireland mycotoxin in wheat survey

Poland and Spain 

The results from last month's Nutriad wheat and triticale survey for Poland told a similar story. It showed that almost 70% of the wheat samples were contaminated with DON and 30% with ZEN and HT2-toxin. The company said a surprising finding was that almost 20% of the samples of triticale were contaminated with FB2, which is more typically associated with maize mycotoxin.  

The survey involved the analysis of 73 wheat and 32 triticale samples collected across Poland. Nutriad said the samples were collected either directly from the farms or from animal feed production sites. 

The additive producer is also in the process of analyzing locally cultivated corn samples from Spain. The results are due in a couple of weeks, said Borutova. But, already, she noted anxiety in that market over high aflatoxin M1 levels in milk. “Weather conditions, we suspect, were favorable to mold development in corn in Spain this year,”​ she said. 

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