In April, Alltech opened its first European-based, state-of-the-art Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analytical services laboratory. All About Feed talked to Dr Sanja Trajkovic, senior analytical chemist about the lab.
What has been the main incentive to open the new mycotoxin lab in Europe?
The decision to open the new mycotoxin lab in Europe has been based on the demand for increased numbers of tests from this region. Effective mycotoxin management is about seeing the whole challenge, from farm to feed mill, from risk assessment to feed management. As we help more farmers and producers in the region, the number of tests requiring analysis has grown too. It seemed sensible to open a new lab in the region to cater for this increased demand.
What does a good mycotoxin lab need?
There are quite a few key components that an efficient mycotoxin laboratory needs in order to run smoothly. They are all equally important, from highly skilled and educated people, high tech instrumentation to abundant resources of chemicals and consumables. The new Alltech 37+ lab in Dunboyne is very well resourced in that respect.
How did the sampling of European samples go before the new lab?
The European laboratory will be the third of its kind for Alltech, which has 2 similar laboratories in the US and China. To date, the laboratory in the US has analysed more than 10,000 samples since opening in 2012. The new laboratory will provide much-needed, high-throughput mycotoxin profiling services in Europe to accelerate the detection process, while saving time and money for European farmers and food producers. Having such a laboratory in Europe will allow Alltech to investigate more than 38 different mycotoxins quantitatively and more than 50 others qualitatively in animal feed in less than 15 minutes per sample.
What are the main goals of the new lab?
Our first goal is to meet the demands of European farmers and producers. We will then expand to cover all the markets except North/South America and China, which will continue to be covered by our sister labs. We will also strive to become an educational centre for analytical chemistry of mycotoxins and, with increased demand for testing, help in opening new sister labs and training personnel.
Is the protocol in the new European lab the same as the labs in the US and China?
Alltech 37+ testing protocol is invented and developed by Dr Alex Yiannikouris and his research team in Nicholasville, Kentucky in the United States. This testing is the same in all our labs. It is envisaged that the new lab in Dunboyne will act as an Alltech 37+ development centre, where the current testing method will be expanded and enhanced, in collaboration with Dr Yiannikouris and our research team in the US.
Do we have mycotoxins under control in Europe?
Mycotoxin contamination in feed continues to be an ever-present risk. According to our 2015 European Grains and Forage Harvest Analysis, dairy and beef cattle are at high risk for mycotoxin exposure. Inconsistent weather conditions during the summer of 2015 increased the risk for mycotoxin contamination, leading to irregularities in plant growth and wreaking havoc on the 2015 European crop. Type A Trichothecene mycotoxins, produced by field born Fusarium, are on the rise in Europe. Type A Trichothecenes as T-2 toxin are synthesised by Fusarium moulds. Corn plants stressed from insect damage, plant disease, as well as other stress factors are always a concern for mould proliferation. Corn silages that are drier, poorly packed, with greater oxygen penetration are also at a greater risk.
How many people will work in the lab?
As senior analytical chemist and manager for Alltech 37+ mycotoxin analytical services laboratory, my role is to train and educate the new team members. This is highly important because our focus is not only processing the samples but we are also developing the current method and furthering our research. Currently there are 2 people working in this laboratory full time but we hope to expand our team in the future.
In 5 years from now, what would you like to have established with the new lab?
In 5 years' time I would like to see this lab achieve its potential as a global analytical centre for mycotoxins.
How much time does it take from when a farmer sends a sample to getting a report back? How does this fit in with the Alltech Mycotoxin Management Program?
Our goal is to have the results out in 5-7 days after the sample is received.
Do you aim to make the testing and determination of mycotoxins in the sample even quicker in the near future?
The current method is already quite fast, 14 minutes per analysis. We are making great efforts to run the process quickly and efficiently, while maintaining the high quality according ISO17025 standards. This objective third-party assessment distinguishes the managerial and technical requirements of the lab and ensures the accuracy and impartiality of analytical results. We will aim to offer more tests, expand to more matrices and a wider range of mycotoxins.
Do you think farmers know enough about mycotoxins? Or do they still underestimate it?
Ever present in the farm environment and a potential threat to the productivity of even the best-run livestock production operations, mycotoxin contamination should now be on every feed producer and farmer's radar. Our marketing research has shown that there is always an opportunity to improve awareness within the farming community of the threat they face. Our new website knowmycotoxins.com will help farmers/producers understand the issues associated with mycotoxin contamination.
How will this new lab contribute to better farming, healthier animals?
Ultimately the new laboratory will provide much-needed, high-throughput mycotoxin profiling services in Europe to accelerate the detection process, while saving time and money for European farmers and food producers. As part of the Alltech Mycotoxin Management Program, we can help safeguard the health of animals, the quality of their feed and the security of our food supply. Mycotoxins have been shown to reduce feed intake, damage gut integrity and cause poor fertility and each of these issues can be a major cost to producers. Identifying and addressing these hidden challenges is very important and with the Alltech 37+ test, mycotoxins can't remain hidden for long.