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Mycotoxin risk and the cost to producer profitability

Safeguarding the health of your animals starts with the quality of your feed. Up until now, it has been difficult to quantify the effects of mycotoxins on animal performance and producer profitability.

By Dr. Alexandra Weaver, Alltech Mycotoxin Management

Symptoms can vary by mycotoxin type and concentration, and often depend on species, age, and production level.  Once the more obvious and commonly recognised symptoms of mycotoxicosis are observed, damage has already been done.  In other instances, animals may fall behind and groups may have high variations in growth and performance over time.  These effects on daily weight gain (ADG) or feed conversion ratio (FCR) can be markers for mycotoxin consumption at both low and high risk levels.

Multiple mycotoxins
Mycotoxin contamination of feedstuffs is of worldwide concern.  Recent analysis from Alltech's 37+™ Program shows that 98% of grain samples globally (tested from June – August 2014) contain two or more mycotoxins.  All mycotoxin groups are represented. The most prevalent mycotoxins, present in over 73% of samples, were the Type B Trichothecenes, Fusaric Acid, and Fumonisins.  What's more, the 37+ analysis also indicates that the overall risk level associated with this group of samples is high. Alltech's Mycotoxin Management team  have come up with one number, the risk equivalent quantity (REQ), which represents the overall threat to a particular species' health and performance based on the cumulative effect of the groups of mycotoxins present.  As a result, the REQ will increase when mycotoxins are combined.  This interaction can be seen in Alltech's 37+ survey of global pig feed (January - June 2014) which shows that 7.6 different mycotoxins are present at low to moderate risk levels which together result in a REQ that reaches high risk (Figure 1).  With these mycotoxins, pig producers can expect to see poor performance, digestive disorders, and immune challenges.  Thus, by looking at multiple mycotoxin contamination with the REQ value, Alltech's 37+ more closely reflects the true challenges facing producers today.  However, it is not enough to know only the risk level associated with mycotoxins present, but it is also important to understand how these mycotoxins impact animals.

Link with profitability
Now, for the first time Alltech has made the link between mycotoxin risk and their impact on producer profitability.  In 10 research trials (1047 pigs), analysed data shows that mycotoxin consumption results in an average decrease of 87.5 g/day for nursery pigs (Figure 2).  Additionally, FCR increased by 13 points.  The impact of mycotoxins on young pigs increases as the overall mycotoxin concentrations, or REQ, of the diet increases.  When the REQ value is less than 100 ppb, average daily gain (ADG) was 6.1% lower. As REQ increased to 100-200 ppb, ADG dropped by 13.5% and at REQ values over 200ppb, the reduction in ADG reached 28.4%. Considering these effects on performance, the cost of mycotoxins to pig producers is an estimated decrease of $6.53/pig during the nursery period.  The costs of mycotoxins can also be determined for other species.  In broilers, scientific data from 18 research trials (6359 birds) indicates that birds gained 5.41 g/day less with a 12 point increase in FCR (Figure 3) when mycotoxins were consumed.  Again, mycotoxin concentration plays a role causing ADG to decrease by 9.3 to 13.3% as REQ increases from lower to higher risk.  The impact on profitability is significant, equating to a loss of $0.36/bird on average.  In both cases, additional costs due to extra management requirements or health treatments were not accounted for but are likely in production settings.

Mycotoxin management
Although mycotoxins are prevalent, effective mycotoxin management can help to minimise the impacts on animal health and performance as well as reduce instances of future contamination.  The use of HACCP based farm and feedmill programs (such as Alltech MIKO) are advised. These tools monitor and minimise mycotoxin occurrence.  Controlling mould growth and mycotoxin production is essential in reducing the risks to animals. Additionally, proven broad spectrum adsorbents can be valuable in controlling those mycotoxins that do make it into the finished feed.  To help animals with the challenge of mycotoxins, Alltech's Mycosorb® and its successor Mycosorb A+® have proven capacity to adsorb a broad range of mycotoxins, negating the damaging effects on health and performance.  Mycosorb A+ is the result of advancing mycotoxin binding technology and offers producers a solution that limits the effects of more mycotoxins than ever before.  Following scientific research, the benefits of using Mycosorb technology during a mycotoxin challenge has now been linked to REQ and animal performance.  As a result, daily gain and FCR can be improved for both nursery pigs and broilers, in turn reducing the effects of the mycotoxin challenges.  As a result of the enhanced performance, net return in these trials was increased by $2.13/pig and $0.12/broiler (including product costs) leading to return on investments of 2.16:1 and 5.32:1 for nursery pigs and broilers, respectively.

Overall, it is important to remember that animals can come in contact with mycotoxins on a daily basis via contaminated feedstuffs.  Even lower levels of mycotoxins can impact animals over time to effect productivity.  Although animal health starts with the quality of feed, effective mycotoxin management is about controlling the whole challenge.  The Alltech Mycotoxin Management Program provides producers with tailored, species specific risk assessment reports and recommendations for reducing mycotoxins.

Dr Alexandra Weaver

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