Inconsistent weather patterns this past summer wreaked havoc on the 2015 North America crop, producing irregularities in plant growth and now putting dairy and beef cattle at high risk for mycotoxin exposure, according to Alltech’s North America Harvest Analysis.

The annual study surveyed 116 North American corn silage samples from across the United States and Canada from September to November 2015, testing for mycotoxin contamination to determine the risk posed to ruminant animals. The Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analysis found an average 5.6 mycotoxins per sample, with 71 percent of samples testing at high risk to dairy and 59 percent at high risk to beef cow performance. The harvest analysis revealed multiple mycotoxins present in 2015 corn silage, showing the greatest risk for Type A Trichothecenes, Fusaric Acid and Type B Trichothecenes.  Fusaric Acid and Type B Trichothecenes were present in almost all corn silage samples and can interact synergistically with each other, increasing toxicity and elevating the potential to impact herd health and performance.

Common symptoms with the ingestion of these toxins include reduced feed intake, lowered blood pressure, swelling and edema of the legs, liver damage, immune response and lowered milk and meat production. Also present this year was Pencillium mycotoxins, commonly known as storage toxins. Found in more than 41 percent of samples, Pencilliums can have a strong impact on rumen health, altering microbial protein and affecting rumen and gut health, which can result in altered production.

“It is important for producers to understand the synergistic effects toxins can have when multiple are present in feed, causing an influx in animal and rumen health challenges,” said Dr. Max Hawkins, Alltech Mycotoxin Management team nutritionist. “Management practices to prevent exposure are always the best course of action. Producers should look to test feed samples at harvest and prior to feedout to identify the risk posed to their animals.”

According to Dr. Alexandra Weaver, Alltech Mycotoxin Management technical specialist, scientific literature shows that at high risk levels to dairy cows, cows may produce 1.34 pounds (0.61L)/milk/day less when consuming mycotoxins. Additionally, milk somatic cell count (SCC) may increase by 48.8 percent. With this loss in performance and considering current milk prices, producers could see an estimated reduction in profitability per cow at $67.27 over one lactation.

“Producers need to be cautious, now more than ever, to ensure proper packing procedures are implemented to avoid spoilage prior to feedout,” Hawkins said. “If left uncontrolled, contamination even at low levels can cause health and performance challenges in livestock, resulting in the loss of production and profitability.”