Friday, 4 November 2016

Mycotoxin Contamination in Animal Feed - The Problems and the Solutions

Mycotoxins in animal feed is a widespread problem that concerns all animal farmers. Be it stored feed grains or natural lush forage hays; Mycotoxins are everywhere. Mycotoxins are natural substances produced by moulds. All natural materials and many man-made ones are subject to contamination by moulds and under favourable environmental conditions, when temperature and moisture are conducive, these fungi proliferate and may produce mycotoxins. Over 500 mycotoxins have been identified and this number is steadily increasing. Once ingested, Mycotoxins create a combination of medical conditions in animals, which is commonly referred to as mycotoxicosis. Mycotoxicosis results in a loss of productivity, reducing the overall health of the farm animals and in case of severe infections, it can also lead to the death of the animals.

Different Animal Feed Mycotoxins And Their Effects

Moulds that grow well in natural feed crops like maize, wheat, etc. and storage grains contribute to mycotoxicosis in animals. The most common fungi producing harmful Mycotoxins are Fusarium, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Claviceps.. The various detrimental effects of the most important Mycotoxins on animals are as follows:

  • Aflatoxin: Carcinogenic, causes liver cancer, liver diseases, immune suppression, etc.
  • Fumonisin: Toxic effects on liver cells, toxicity in nephrons, pulmonary oedema, immune suppression, leukoencephalomalacia, etc.
  • Ochratoxin: Immune suppression, frequent abortion, reduced feed intake, liver damage, nephrotoxicity, etc.
  • Trichothecenes: Oedema, disrupted digestion, changes in blood circulation, reduced immunity, etc.
  • Zearalenone: Frequent abortions, reduced reproductive capacity, reduced urge of copulation, atrophy conditions in both male and female gonads, oestrogenic disorders.
  • Ergot alkaloids: Disrupted nervous system, suppressed immune responses, gangrenous syndrome, etc.
Both forage grass and feed grain can be contaminated with major Mycotoxins and after ingestion create the above-mentioned clinical conditions in animals.

Mycotoxicosis prevention methods:

As more than 500 known Mycotoxins naturally occur in farms and are often masked with sugar molecule bonding, sampling methods often fail to resolve the Mycotoxin contamination issues. Modern scientific approaches to mycotoxicosis prevention adapt two more significant feed additives that can either render the toxins harmless or control Mycotoxin production. These methods are as follows:

  • Mycotoxin inhibitors: These compounds are harmless to the animals but when these are added to animal feed can significantly control mold growth and hence stop new Mycotoxin production.
  • Mycotoxin adsorbents: Usually aluminosilicates or yeast cell wall derivatives are used to bind with already present Mycotoxins converting them into harmless complexes.
Apart from these methods, weed control, crop rotation, proper storage methods can also help in stopping Mycotoxin contamination.

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