The fungi, which produce toxins in the field and during storage, are of the strain Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium. Mycotoxin producing moulds are found in nature and come into contact with forages and cereals in the field, before and during harvesting.
The contact goes on throughout drying, transportation, and storage.
Conditions such as high moisture content above 13 per cent in grains, poor storage, high humidity, crop stress, and insect attacks, create an ideal environment for mould growth that subsequently produces the toxins.
Humans ingest the toxins through consuming contaminated products like milk. Toxins such as aflatoxin B1 are metabolised quickly and transferred into the milk as aflatoxin M1, which can cause cancer in human beings.
Mycotoxins also damage animal organs, reducing their performance andproduction. When toxins from different fungi species interact, their effect is more damaging.
Mycotoxins in Silage
Silage is a key fodder in dairy production. Meticulous preparation is required.
Remove air in silage through good compaction to avoid formation of pockets of air that create ‘hotspots’ for mould growth. Also, avoid unecessary opening the silage bunker which can allow air in and encourage mould growth.
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Signs that your animal could be affected by mycotoxins are:
- Diarrhoea and metabolic disorders;
- Poor digestion due to disruption of gut microbes;
- Poor performance and production;
- Immune suppression (poor immunity);
- Reduced feed intake;
- Swollen legs.
When farmers purchase or import key feed ingredients such as maize germ, cottonseed cake, sunflower, wheat bran, soya cake, and wheat pollard, they should dry them completely.
Farmers should also use mycotoxin binders when preparing feeds for their animals, whether imported or grown on the farm.
There are various binders in the market. Enlist the help of an animal nutritionist to help you choose the best binder for your animal feeds.