Frequently Asked Questions
Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by mould species. Feed does not have to be visibly mouldy to become contaminated, and visibly mouldy feeds do not necessarily contain mycotoxins. Different species of mould produce different mycotoxins. Bedding materials including straw can also contain mycotoxins.
Most prevalent mycotoxins are produced by Aspergillus and Fusarium mould species, which are naturally found throughout the environment.
Moulds produce mycotoxins as a response to environmental stress conditions. These are usually related to weather conditions such as temperature and rainfall extremes. Toxins can be produced while the crop is still in the field and/or after harvesting. Poor handling and storage conditions can cause further contamination of feeds. The risk of mycotoxins is always present.
No. Mycotoxins are produced by living mould organisms, but they themselves are just toxic secretions of these moulds. The mould may be killed, but any toxins already produced will remain.
There are many different mycotoxins that can cause a variety of effects in animals. Symptoms will vary depending on the mycotoxin and the species. Lower levels however tend to result in chronic effects including reduced feed intake, immune suppression, or reproductive issues. Higher levels can have acute effects including severe organ damage, abortions, and death. All species can be affected by mycotoxins. More information can be found here
There are several options for measuring mycotoxins in animal feed. These range from inexpensive rapid test kits, designed to detect specific toxins in specific commodities, to full screening by accredited laboratories, which can detect a range of mycotoxins in many different sample types.
Rapid test kits have a place if you have a single commodity and you are looking for a specific mycotoxin. They do not always work well across a range of sample types or in materials where many feed types are present such as compound feed or TMR.
The most accurate and detailed way to test for mycotoxins is to submit samples to an accredited lab using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.