Most of us know about mycotoxins in feed. We know that feed is checked for acceptable levels. But what do we really know about it other than it can make our cattle sick? Do you realize that it is present in most feed, grain and even hay?
This year the drought has brought about growing conditions conducive for mycotoxins in grain as well. What can you do to protect yourself?
If you are feeding straight grain that you are grinding yourself, you can do what most feed mills do. Typically mills that create their own feed will add something that works as a binder to protect them even if they haven’t found mycotosis in their grain or feed supply just yet. Sodium bentonite is an economical option as a binder, but not as effective as some of the higher priced ones out there. These are available through most feed stores and used as a top dressing or mixed right in with your feed in the grinder.
This year we have seen a lot of people digging deep into their hay stash as well and that has brought out a lot of old, perhaps moldy, hay. We have seen people sell hay that has been in storage or sitting on a farm somewhere maybe for years. What that means is it has the opportunity for mold and mycotoxins. What people don’t realize is that the hay doesn’t have to look moldy to have mycotoxins. What looks dusty can also be carrying mycotoxins. It is important to be careful with the hay that you are using if it is of unknown origin. What can you do? Have it tested. That is the only way you can be safe and know what you are feeding is safe. It is far better to test the hay and know that you are feeding a quality product than to lose your herd because of mycotosis.
Noticeable symptoms of mycotoxins are: intake reduction or feed refusal, intermittent diarrhea, some which can be bloody or dark. Internal symptoms are reduced nutrient absorption and impaired metabolism including altered rumen fermentation and microbial growth, intestinal irritation, reduced production, lower fertility and increased morbidity. It also suppresses their immune system making them more vulnerable to many diseases and may cause a lack of response to medications and failure of vaccination programs. It may also lead to cellular death which may cause organ damage. As you can see, much can be going on inside before you notice the external symptoms. The diarrhea, lethargy and feed refusal could also be symptoms for a variety of illnesses or not much at all. It can be difficult to diagnose or pinpoint as the problem and difficult to treat once isolated. Obviously the worse problem you can see is death. Other more subtle areas are decrease of reproduction, which could be another costly problem for producers.
Don’t think that your animals are the only ones at risk either. People can develop what is known as Farmer’s Lung from breathing in the dust from moldy hay. The spores can grow in your lungs and create this condition.
Obviously the best option would be to avoid hay with any type of mold or dust but as we know, this year we are not dealing with a lot of options. So if your hay looks suspicious, have it tested. Better to be safe than sorry.


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