Weather conditions likely cause of high mycotoxin risk for Canadian producers

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/Kenishirotie
© istock/Kenishirotie

Related tags Mycotoxins Milk Cattle

Alltech’s analysis of Canadian feed ingredients highlights multiple presences and the need for feed testing, says specialist.

The company showed results from a series of samples taken during the 2017 harvest in a webinar on Wednesday. 

The varied weather patterns in different parts of Canada contributed to a range of results that could lead to a high risk for some animal producers, said Alexandra Weaver, mycotoxin management technical specialist with Alltech. “Ontario had really high rainfall and they were expecting problems, for the western side [of Canada] they were saying it was a pretty good year,”​ she added.

“Based on what we’re seeing that risk would be higher to that animal,” ​she told us. “We’re talking about a raw feedstuff so we do have to consider inclusion rate – these mycotoxins are in general looking like a greater risk this year perhaps than previous years, definitely because of the weather patterns that we’ve seen.”

Regionally, dairy producers in Ontario may need to be cautious of feed quality and mycotoxin presence, she said. “If you look at overall Canada, it’s the swine producers because the grain samples did contain higher levels that could be impacting pigs,”​ she added.

Sample specifics and concerns

The primary focus for concern was the presence of three specific mycotoxins, deoxynivalenol (DON), zearalenone (ZEA) and T-2/HT-2 toxins, said Weaver. However, the potential for a feed ingredient like corn, corn silage or wheat to include multiple mycotoxins also has to be considered.

The eastern side of the country saw higher levels for the three primary mycotoxins, she said. “There were much higher levels for deoxynivalenol, T-2/HT-2 and zearalenone in corn silage and wheat,” ​she added.

Alltech also has started watching for what it calls “emerging mycotoxins,”​ she said. Five new mycotoxins have been added to the test that the company offers and low levels of some were found in samples analyzed.

The mycotoxins are ones that have been previously found, but only recently has enough research been done to establish what their effect on animals might be, said Weaver. “We knew they existed, now there’s enough research to say we know what is a lower, moderate, high-risk level,” ​she added.

Testing for mycotoxin presence in feed and feed ingredients may help producers prepare for the toxins and plan ways to minimize their influence, she said. “We always recommend that in the spring, once things start to thaw out that’s when we suggest going back and doing another test,”​ she added.

Reactions to mycotoxins in feed

Both high and low levels of mycotoxin presence in feed or a feed ingredient can cause stress or production problems in animals, said Weaver.

“Higher levels may be easier to diagnose because we might see an immediate effect on those animals,” ​she said. “The lower levels are often more challenging because we may not see those effects until it is too late because there are impacts on gut health, slow changes in growth performance, slow or small changes in milk production or quality every day and changes in immunity.”

Changes in an animal’s health or performance influenced by the presence of mycotoxins can build up over time, said Weaver.

Common production or health concerns linked with the mycotoxins found in feed ingredient samples include a reduction in feed intake for dairy cows, especially if DON or T-2/HT-2 toxins are present, or changes to gut health, manure quality, milk production and immunity, she said. In calves, there also could be a reduction in growth performance.

Pigs are considered to be more sensitive to mycotoxins, she said. If DON is present in a feed there could be a change in gut health, immunity and intestinal lesions.

“[High levels of mycotoxins] can change how animals respond to pathogens and reduced growth performance, particularly in the piglets,” ​she said. “Vulva swelling, this is a sign that zearalenone is there, reduced growth in young pigs and altered breeding performance.”

Poultry may be less sensitive to mycotoxins other than T-2/HT-2 toxins, she said. However, they also can display signs of deteriorating gut health, immunity and growth performance.

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