The demand for ethanol is booming throughout the United States and, as a result, raising the price of corn globally. To offset the rise in prices, producers are using the by-product from ethanol production, dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS) to feed cattle. While this is a great source of protein, it can also present several challenges.

One of the most serious challenges is the increased concentration of mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are toxic materials in grains that are harmful when fed to animals. Even in low doses, mycotoxins can cause such production challenges as reduced feed intake, lameness, slowed growth rates, and in rare cases, death. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins found in the grain caused by problems such as drought and improper ensiling. The toxins are stored in the fibrous outer shell of corn and are typically present in very minute amounts.

With the increase in ethanol production, an increase in mycotoxin problems is sure to follow. During ethanol production, the distillation process extracts the starch from the inner part of the kernel. It is this energy source that aids in the fermentation and ultimately gives us the high energy liquid, ethanol. The unused portion of this process is the distiller’s grains with solubles, which can either be dried (DDGS) or wet (WDGS). However, since mycotoxins are stored in this outer shell, the concentration of mycotoxins can become quite high.

According to James Pierce, PhD, coordinator of monogastric nutrition at Alltech, there is no “safe” level of mycotoxins in feed. “There are regulated limits on mycotoxins, but the discovery of one in your grain does not tell you if that is the only one,” Pierce said. “Also, they seem to work in synergy, thus compounding their negative effects.”  This can create a dilemma in the field and leave an economic impact on producers.

Today’s feed manufacturers and producers need to be particularly cognizant of potential mycotoxin problems. Since DDGS and WDGS are by-products of ethanol production, distillers typically do not closely monitor the mycotoxin levels. This could lead to a potentially devastating feed source.

While there is no known way to prevent the formation of mycotoxins, Pierce has a few suggestions for producers to battle fungal growth. “Proper drying and storage techniques are a good defense,” Pierce said. “Also, the use of a quality mycotoxin control agent is essential to ensure animal health.”

Today’s feed manufacturers and producers need to be particularly cognizant of potential mycotoxin problems in dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS).


There have been varying methods veterinarians have used to age the beef fetus. Jim Furman, DVM, and son Tom Furman, DVM, The Animal Center, Alliance, Neb., focus on aging of fetuses by size of the amnionic vesicle and head size of the fetus.

“It is imperative that one identifies the complete amnionic vesicle or some part of a fetus before a cow or heifer is called pregnant,” Jim Furman says. “You need to be able to feel the complete uterine tract from ovary to ovary before she is called open. Rectal pal-pation is that simple; anything else leads to a mistake.”

“If only the placentomes are felt, you may want to call her pregnant, but she may have calved yesterday or last week,” Tom Furman adds. If you feel the fremitus of the middle uterine artery, you may want to call her pregnant, but she may have had a uterine infection, creating the need for a large blood supply. “You can see now that it is imperative to feel the structures of pregnancy, either an amnionic vesicle, part of the fetus itself or membrane slip.”

Palpation should be done with a gentle touch and plenty of lubricant while the female is properly restrained to allow adequate feel in a relaxed rectum. The main palpation landmarks are the cervix, the shaft of the ileum and the brim of the pelvis. During palpation it is important to determine some of the following conditions from pregnancy: pyometra, post-partum uterus, bladder, rumen, mucometra, hydrometra, mummified fetus and macerated fetus.

The criteria used in making a positive diagnosis of pregnancy are fluctuation in the uterus at >30 days (less apparent at >3 months), membrane slip at >30–35 days, amnionic vesicle from 40–65 days, the fetus at >65 days, placentomes at >3 months and middle uterine artery fremitus at >3.5–4 months.

This information was presented at the 2006 Western Veterinary Conference.


Cattlemen using bands to castrate bulls must adhere to proper vaccination procedures and timing of vaccine in order to obtain protection against tetanus. Banding has become a popular castration means, particularly for larger bull calves. However, the type of necrotic lesion that develops on the scrotum is conducive for the tetanus organism (Clostridium tetani) to grow and produce toxin that can result in classic signs of severe muscle tetany. Cases of tetanus 7-10 days following banding are not uncommon, even though a dose of tetanus toxoid was administered. Death can result only a day or two after signs of tetanus are apparent.

The initial dose of tetanus toxoid vaccine is frequently given at banding to prevent tetanus. However, to prevent tragic losses you should follow label directions and administer two doses of toxoid before banding.

Keep in mind, there is a reason the tetanus toxoid products on the market require two doses. Protective immunity will not be sufficient following one dose. One dose of tetanus toxoid will sensitize the immune system, but it is usually 10 days or more before any significant amount of antibodies is produced. In addition, this initial immunity may not be strong enough to protect against tetanus. This is why many tetanus toxoid labels call for a booster dose three to four weeks following the initial dose. Antibody production increases significantly within a couple of days following the booster dose, and protection against tetanus is much greater.

Therefore, banding at the same time as the initial dose of tetanus toxoid may result in tetanus before sufficient immunity can be stimulated. It should be recommended to band no sooner than when the second dose is given. For optimum protection, all product label directions should be followed carefully.

This practice tip provided by Phil Widel, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.