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Mycotoxins in Grains and Animal Feeds


Martin W. Adams, PAS – Equine Nutritionist for Southern States

Mycotoxins are toxins produced by molds that can affect the health of animals in many ways. These mycotoxins can be present in hay, pasture and grain. Mycotoxins are stable chemical compounds; they are resistant to heating and can remain in the feed for an extended period of time.

Aflatoxin - a carcinogenic fungal toxin produced in improperly stored or damaged feeds.  The two molds that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.  Aflatoxin B1 is the most toxic and common, followed by G1, B2 and G2. Their toxins can be produced pre-harvest in the field and post-harvest in storage. In both cases, damage from insects, mishandling or weather stress will help the fungi invade the seed.  While aflatoxins are most common in warm, dry areas, these molds can attack crops in northern climates if conditions are favorable.  In addition to cereal grains, soybeans, rice and peanuts, aflatoxins can occur in silage and hay. The prime cause of aflatoxin molds is moisture, so proper harvesting, drying and storage are important factors in lessening contamination and toxin production. Acetic and propionic salts are highly effective in inhibiting mold growth, thus greatly decreasing the incidence of aflatoxin production. In mares, aflatoxin decreases reproductive performance, increases embryonic death rate and causes birth defects.

DON (Deoxynivalenol) or Vomitoxin - a toxin produced by several species of Fusarium molds, and they are the most common molds found in hay and feed grains. Swine are very sensitive to this toxin, which causes vomiting, feed refusal, immune suppression, diarrhea, weight loss and milk production loss in pigs and other animal species. Horses appear to be sensitive to this toxin also, DON is implicated in colic and reduced feed intake in horses.

T-2 Toxin - a toxin produced by certain species of Fusarium molds, mainly Fursarium sporptrichioides. T-2 Toxin causes both acute and chronic symptoms in most species of livestock.  Symptoms of toxicity include diarrhea, irregular heart rate, scarring of the digestive tract, and rapid eye blinking.

Ochratoxin - toxins produced by Aspergillus ochraceus and Pencillium viridicatum.  While ochratoxin refers to a family of compounds, only ochratoxin A occurs naturally and is of toxicological significance. Ochratoxin A is a nephrotoxin (causes kidney damage) and is known to suppress immune system function. Ochratoxin A is found mainly in corn, barley, wheat and milo.

Zearalenone - a toxin produced by several species of Fusarium molds. Its chemical structure is similar to the female sex hormone estrogen and can impair reproductive function in many species.  Zearalenone is known to cause reproductive disorders in livestock, especially swine.

Fumonisin - toxins produced by two Fusarium molds, Fusarium moniliforme and Fusarium proliferatum.  There are at least six fumonisins that have been isolated: A1, A2, B1, B2, B3 and B4.  Fumonisins are found mainly in corn and corn-based products. These mycotoxins can impair immune function, cause kidney and liver damage, and result in decreased animal performance and cause death. Corn screenings appear to be a source of high levels of fumonisin.  Fumonisin B1 is responsible for equine leukoencephalomalacia (ELEM), also called moldy corn poisoning. In swine, fumonisin B1 has been implicated as the cause of porcine pulmonary edema (PPE). And in humans, fumonisin B1 has been linked to esophageal cancer. A recommended maximum level in animal feeds has been established by the Food and Drug Association (FDA).


The FDA can support enforcement action against interstate shipments of corn exceeding these levels of aflatoxin.
 Aflatoxin Contamination - Levels of Concern for Corn
 Human Food  20 ppb
 Feed for immature livestock and poultry  20 ppb
 Feed for dairy cattle  20 ppb
 Breeding cattle  100 ppb
 Breeding swine  100 ppb
 Mature poultry  100 ppb
 Finishing swine (100 pounds or more)  200 ppb
 Finishing beef cattle  300 ppb

The FDA has established these levels in animal feeds for total fumonisin levels.
 Fumonisin - Levels of Concern 
 Horses and rabbits  5 ppm (no more than 20% of diet)
 Swine and catfish  20 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)
 Breeding ruminants and poultry  30 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)
 Ruminants (3 months or older)  60 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)
 Ruminants (3 months or older)  60 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)
 Poultry for slaughter  100 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)
 All other species including pets  10 ppm (no more than 50% of diet)

The FDA recommends these limits for DON.
  Vomitoxin or DON - Levels of Concern
 Human Food  1 ppm
 Ruminating Beef Cattle  10 ppm in (50% of diet or 5 ppm in total diet)
 Feedlot Beef Cattle  10 ppm in (50% of diet or 5 ppm in total diet)
 Mature Beef Cattle and Chickens  10 ppm in (50% of diet or 5 ppm in total diet)
 Swine  5 ppm in (20% of diet or 1 ppm in total diet)
 Horses and other animals  5 ppm in (40% of diet or 2 ppm in total diet)


Ochratoxin, T-2 Toxin and Zearalenone - Levels of Concern - There are no regulatory levels set for ochratoxin, T-2 toxin or zearalenone.

Southern States’ current mycotoxin testing program includes testing of corn and corn byproduct feed ingredients for Aflatoxin, Fumonisin, and Vomitoxin (DON).  Wheat and wheat byproduct feed ingredients are screened for DON. Additional commodities are tested for toxins that are prevalent in the product, such as Aflatoxin in peanut hulls. Feed ingredients purchased by Southern States with levels of mycotoxins found to be above specific approved limits are not used in horse feeds or other animal feeds.

Several products have been incorporated into animal feeds to bind mycotoxins. These products are known as “binders” and include natural clay products, activated charcoal and yeast cell wall extracts. No product has been found to be totally effective, but each of these products cause a neutralizing effect on certain mycotoxins to a limited degree. The Triple Crown line of horse feeds and supplements manufactured by Southern States contain a yeast cell wall product called Integral. Integral is an esterified glucomannan product derived from yeast cell walls that has been shown to bind certain mycotoxins in the digestive tract and prevent their absorption into the bloodstream, reducing the absorption of certain mycotoxins that are known to be especially harmful to horses.

Romer Laboratories (636-583-8600) and Trilogy Analytical Laboratory (636-239-1521) can perform analysis on hay and grain samples for many mycotoxins including Aflatoxin B1, Fumonisin B1, DON, T-2 Toxin, Zearalenone and Ochratoxin.

Comments

Johnny F. 09/06/13
Equine Specialist - Retired Martin, that was the best article I have ever seen on Mycotoxins, and I have been preaching this for 20+ years. Here is a little advice from an old worn out Horse Specialist. 1. Do not allow screenings or re-work to be used as an ingredient for horse feed. They are loaded with Mycotoxins, and particularly Fumonisin. I know you use them in cheap products, but you are taking huge risk when you do. 2. Watch out for new corn crop, I know you have a lot of corn screenings that formulators are trying to incorporate into least cost rations. I remember once turning back 200 loads of corn a from major supplier. My company and the seller were not too happy with me, but we didn't kill any horses. Thirty years of experience, and I have never had a horse to die over an alflatoxin poisoning, but there have been many other mycotoxins that have created havoc. 3. Take a look at multiple samples of rice bran, both kinds, and particularly de-fat. Great Job!

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1 Comment:

Johnny F.
September 6, 2013 8:01 AM
Equine Specialist - Retired
Martin, that was the best article I have ever seen on Mycotoxins, and I have been preaching this for 20+ years. Here is a little advice from an old worn out Horse Specialist. 1. Do not allow screenings or re-work to be used as an ingredient for horse feed. They are loaded with Mycotoxins, and particularly Fumonisin. I know you use them in cheap products, but you are taking huge risk when you do. 2. Watch out for new corn crop, I know you have a lot of corn screenings that formulators are trying to incorporate into least cost rations. I remember once turning back 200 loads of corn a from major supplier. My company and the seller were not too happy with me, but we didn't kill any horses. Thirty years of experience, and I have never had a horse to die over an alflatoxin poisoning, but there have been many other mycotoxins that have created havoc. 3. Take a look at multiple samples of rice bran, both kinds, and particularly de-fat. Great Job!

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