While the drought conditions have had a visible and dramatic impact on grain and soybean yields, there can be a less visible impact in that the adverse conditions also make the crops more susceptible to mold growth. While molds themselves don’t affect livestock, the mycotoxins which molds produce can have a very negative impact on livestock production.
There are many mycotoxins produced by molds, but the ones we worry about the most in the upper Midwest are vomitoxin (DON), zearalenone, penicillium, fumonisin, and aflatoxin. Symptoms range from reduced feed intake and performance/production to organ failure and death. Animals most at risk for toxicosis include recently weaned and breeding animals.
Once the feedstuff becomes contaminated with mycotoxins, there is nothing that can be done to remove or destroy the mycotoxins. However, there are strategies producers can use to minimize or alleviate the effects of these mycotoxins on their livestock. Some of those include add grain preservatives at harvest to prevent any more mold growth, test incoming grains to know which mycotoxins and levels you are dealing with, screen the grain, blending contaminated grain with “clean” grain to acceptable mycotoxin concentrations, and remove the fines, and reduce overall stress on the animals. For producers with good quality “carry-over” corn, they should strategically feed that to their breeding herd and newly weaned animals, and use the poorer quality grains for older, market animals.
While molds and mycotoxins pose a serious threat for livestock producers, there are management techniques that can control or overcome most of the risks. The best time to determine the right strategy for your operation is well before the crops are harvested, which is right now. For more information, read the Extension Extra Dealing with Mycotoxin-contaminated Feeds at Feeding Time or contact your Field or State Extension Specialist.
Source: Robert Thaler