A few years ago a scorching summer caused toxic molds to appear on some area crops.
The mold prospered in the hot, humid weather, creating mycotoxins, which are potentially harmful.
Allan Vyhnalek, Platte County cooperative agriculture extension educator, said mycotoxins haven't been a big problem the last couple of years, but there is always potential for them to pop up if grains aren't managed properly.
"The biggest problem this time of year is the changing temperature of grain bins," Vyhnalek said.
During the winter, fans can be used to prevent condensation. Wetness inside bins can provide the perfect breeding ground for mold, which can lead to mycotoxins.
Several experts in the field of animals and farm industries were in Columbus Thursday as part of the North American Mycotoxin Seminar Series that discussed the impact of mycotoxins in the United States.
The seminar was conducted by Alltech, a multinational biotechnology company that provides natural solutions to the feed and food industries. Columbus was one of the stops on the two-week tour of North America. Another tour is being held in March.
Mycotoxins can be poisonous to animals and humans that eat feed or food that come from contaminated crops. Hundreds of mycotoxins exist and grow in silage and animal feed. Mold produces mycotoxins when the mold is stressed because of high moisture and poor air circulation.
Animals affected by mycotoxins may have an array of symptoms including lameness, damage to intestines, kidneys and liver, harm to the immune system, reproductive problems, deformities, poor milk production, diarrhea and abortions, said speaker Dr. Simon Timmermans, DVM with Washington-based Timmermans Inc.
Because the symptoms are general and could be caused by a number of other problems and diseases, mycotoxins may not be the first cause looked at. But, Timmermans said it should be kept in mind.
"Don't necessarily run right to mycotoxins, but it should be on your list," he said.
To determine if mycotoxins are the root of the problem, farmers should get a yeast and mold count of forage, identify the mold, recognize the symptoms and rule out other causes, Timmermans said. Also, the use of an absorbent in the feed prior to giving it to the animal can limit the amount of toxins ingested.
High levels of mycotoxin cause death, but low levels fed to animals can lead to the greatest economic loss for farmers because the problem goes unrecognized and untreated for an extended period of time, Timmermans said. In a study conducted in 2000 in North Carolina on dairy cows, some animals were fed mycotoxins and their milk production was compared to those that weren't. The healthy cows produced 20 pounds of milk more per day than those fed mycotoxins.