Agrimprove – mycotoxin lesions in slaughterhouses

29-06-2020 | |
Kevin Vanneste Product Manager Agrimprove. Photo: Agrimprove
Kevin Vanneste Product Manager Agrimprove. Photo: Agrimprove

It is standard practice to test for mycotoxin contamination in feed by sampling feed ingredients. Agrimprove takes a different approach and looks at mycotoxin lesions in slaughterhouses. All About Feed talked with product manager Kevin Vanneste.

In a recently released technical white paper Agrimprove explains how to look for mycotoxin lesions in poultry in slaughterhouses. Mycotoxins can cause various types of lesions in several organs. It depends on the type of mycotoxin present in the feed of the animal which organ is damaged. According to Kevin van Venneste, product manager at Agrimprove, detection of lesions caused by mycotoxins serves as an additional tool.

Kevin Vanneste Product Manager Agrimprove: ” Pathology offers an additional tool to evaluate the impact of mycotoxins on animal level. Not considering lesions caused by mycotoxins in differential diagnosis implies a risk for wrong diagnosis and decision making.”

All About Feed: The presence of mycotoxins is usually tested in feed ingredients; why should we look for lesions caused by mycotoxins?

The information obtained through mycotoxin analysis of grains and feed does not provide a full picture of the real level of contamination with mycotoxins. Sometimes the level of mycotoxins detected is very low or they are not detected at all. However, while nutritionists might think that everything is under control and the risk is low, animal performance can still be impacted for the following reasons:

  • Mycotoxins are heterogeneously distributed in grains and feed
  • In practice the sampling size is often too small, resulting in non-representative results (e.g. you would need to take 100 samples per batch of 80 tonnes or more)
  • The presence of masked mycotoxins
  • Synergistic effects between mycotoxins
  • Long exposure to low levels of mycotoxins.

Not considering lesions caused by mycotoxins in differential diagnosis can create the risk of making a wrong diagnosis or other decision.

In order to get a full picture, pathology offers an additional tool to evaluate the impact of mycotoxins on animals. Specialists at Agrimprove look for specific lesions related to mycotoxins macroscopically. In some cases they also collect some samples of the affected organs to perform histopathology (examination of tissue under the microscope). An important aspect when our pathology specialists visit customers is training local personnel.

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Why this approach?

Veterinarians all over the world have a great deal of knowledge about bacteria, viruses and so on. As a consequence they often think first in terms of infectious diseases, but don’t look for lesions caused by mycotoxins, or they find it difficult to recognise them. It is important to keep in mind that, when everything is done properly and there is no response to antibiotics or vaccines, mycotoxins might be involved. Mycotoxins do not often kill, but they do result in growth retardation, more days to market, etc. Not considering lesions caused by mycotoxins in differential diagnosis can create the risk of making a wrong diagnosis or other decision. Via our technical white papers, we aim to share our 30 years of experience and expertise in mycotoxins and make veterinarians become familiar with the lesions caused by mycotoxins. It is important to mention that this knowledge can be applied not only in slaughterhouses but also on the farm. Considering mycotoxin lesions in differential diagnosis not only provides information about possible exposure to mycotoxins, but also whether any preventive measures (e.g. the use of ­mycotoxin binders) are really effective. If a product is able to powerfully adsorb mycotoxins, not only will productivity improve, but animal producers will also see the difference in the slaughterhouse as the incidence of mycotoxin lesions will diminish.

Mycotoxin Knowledge Centre:
This interactive tool provides information on the impact on livestock health, an A-Z, plus regulations.

How can you see if lesions are caused by mycotoxins?

It’s important to have overall knowledge on pathology in order to differentiate between problems. Clinical experience can help in this alongside doing additional analyses in the lab. The method of slaughtering is also specific to the slaughterhouse, so it’s also important to learn about local ways of working in order to consider any other factor that might be involved.

Are carcasses contaminated with mycotoxins removed from the production chain?

This depends on the regulations in each country. For pigs, in most cases only the affected organs, such as greasy livers, cystic kidneys, edematous lungs, reproductive tracts, etc. will be removed. The organs are removed because of their external appearance. For poultry, most government regulations do not stipulate the removal of carcasses showing lesions that are compatible with mycotoxicosis. The main reason for this is that inspectors working in slaughterhouses are usually not familiar with lesions related to mycotoxins. That is why it is very important to show them what the lesions associated with mycotoxins look like and how to differentiate them from other possible causes.

Is there feedback from the slaughterhouses to farms or feedmills to communicate the results?

At this moment there is no automatic monitoring or feedback system from slaughterhouses to farms to exchange results. As a first step we would like to make veterinarians and slaughterhouse managers aware of the possible effects of mycotoxins, and teach them how to recognize the lesions which can be caused by mycotoxins. The results obtained in the slaughterhouse are typically shared with the veterinarians responsible for the farm concerned. The vets write down suggestions, they become familiar with the lesions reported and they look for them whenever they carry out a post-mortem examination. Today, the easiest and cheapest way to provide information to the farms and feed mills is to share the results with the people working in the field (vets, nutritionists, etc.). Our Agrimprove specialists in mycotoxins and experts in pathology teach technical people in the feed and animal production industry worldwide how to look for and recognise lesions caused by mycotoxins. Once people start to look for lesions caused by mycotoxins and are able to differentiate between them, there is a tremendous change in how people look at mycotoxins. This change could represent a really effective solution for the industry.


Agrimprove is Royal Agrifirm Group’s functional feed ingredients brand. In support of farmers worldwide, Agrimprove develops ideas in animal health and nutrition, and grow these ideas into tangible improvement strategies based on feed optimisation.

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Marieke Ploegmakers Editor: All About Feed
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