Excessive rains close to the time of harvesting in South American corn-exporting countries have affected the quality of local grains. Corn and soybeans from Argentina and Brazil are exported to many countries in South America, Africa, Russia and the Middle East.
Due to the weather conditions last year, a lot of problems with the grain quality are expected in corn-importing countries in 2016. South American grain producers mention that this year they were unable even to harvest some of their grain because it was too wet and germinated in the cob. In addition to that, the average temperature in that region around 24-32 C caused a flourish of the Fusarium mould species (Figures 1-2).
Figures 1-2. Photos of corn at the field in Argentina taken by NUTRIAD colleague in March 2016
Mycotoxins are highly toxic secondary metabolic products of moulds. The mycotoxin producing moulds, like Fusarium, can cause great economic losses at all stages of food and feed production. Many of the mycotoxins reduce animal performance but also impair health, cause diseases. In the modern animal production, the animal’s performance boundaries are continuously being challenged in order to provide the farmer highest profitability.
Disease outbreaks in farms are known to have economically devastating effects as the wholeherd can be affected. The occurrence of diseases has a direct negative impact on the economic viability of pig farms as outbreaks represent major cost increases and loss of profit.
Disease control and treatment is therefore crucial for the economic viability of poultry farms. It was already described how mycotoxins, the secondary toxic metabolites produced by fungi, negatively impact the poultry performance and fertility.
Nevertheless, their hazardous effects are even broader involving also the health of contaminated animals. It is clear that even low dietary levels of mycotoxins may alter the animal health and overall farm profitability by increasing the susceptibility of animals to infectious diseases and by decreasing vaccine efficacy.
Prevention is always better than cure
The best practical way to control mycotoxin levels is to use rapid test kit systems for the analysis of mycotoxins in raw ingredients which are not yet in silos. Different rapid test kit systems are validated for different mycotoxins and commodities and offer a very quick and effective way of raw material screening before they enter the feed mill. Once the levels are known, every feed mill can estimate the quality of its raw ingredients in terms of mycotoxin contamination and can effectively and more precisely (dosage adjustment) apply mycotoxin deactivator during feed production.
Another strategy of mycotoxin risk management is to test for the presence of mycotoxins in finished feeds. The most important advantage is that as every raw ingredient can bring its own mycotoxins into the finished feed and by only testing some raw ingredients by rapid test kits, some important raw ingredients whose inclusion is not high (5-10%) and which can still cause significant contamination of finished feed can be missed. Since the 1960’s, many analytical methods have been developed for the testing of mycotoxins in human food and animal feeds due to the concern of toxicity for human health. Among them, the methods of thin-layer- chromatography (TLC), enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunosensor-based methods have been widely used for rapid screening, while high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with fluorescence detection (FD) and mass spectrometry detection (MS) have been used as confirmatory and reference. Accredited laboratory service is required for this step. The most important disadvantage is that analysis of finished feed takes quite a long time such that the tested feed is likely to have been fed to the animals by the time the results from the analysis are known.
Use mould inhibitors
The quality of feed and feed material is determined by its composition and its microbiological load. The number of mould spores is especially an important factor. Little can be done about mould contamination and subsequent toxin production in the field pre-harvest.
However, a mould inhibition program in line with the storage conditions and the nutrient availability is key to minimising post-harvest mould growth and mycotoxin production.
Storage mycotoxin contamination (ochratoxins, aflatoxins) can be prevented by keeping temperature and moisture content in silos low while grain is regularly aerated. In case optimal storage conditions cannot be guaranteed use of mould inhibitors is highly recommended.
Apply effective mycotoxin deactivator
The initial question was if the fact that feed is the most important source of mycotoxins could be changed. The answer is no, this cannot change. However, assurance can be given that the feed provided to the animals despite the mycotoxin contamination will be safe and will not affect the health and performance of livestock.
The final possible step in mycotoxin management is the application of a mycotoxin deactivator. These products work strictly in vivo and will not counteract or mask mycotoxin in stored feed or raw ingredients. These products deactivate the toxins directly in the strointestinal
tract of animals, based either on adsorption of those mycotoxins with suitably located polar functional groups, or biological degradation (bio-inactivation). UNIKE ® and TOXY-NIL ® product lines from NUTRIAD represent specially developed feed additives that protect animals from mycotoxicoses by adsorption, bio-inactivation, organ, immune and antioxidant system support and represent an optimal solution for mycotoxin management for farm animals.
It is highly recommended to apply effective mycotoxin deactivator which offers an opportunity to significantly improve animal health, performance, productivity and profit that can be impaired by mycotoxins. Depending on the target performance, different mycotoxins will have different effects on the productivity. Therefore, using different products for different animal groups become a rational trend.
Despite the extensive efforts and preventive actions taken during growing, harvesting and storage periods, the likelihood of mycotoxin contamination is present. Successful detoxification procedures after harvest are therefore important. The addition of the effective mycotoxin deactivators to animal feeds is a very common method to secure the feed and prevent mycotoxicosis.