Mycotoxins and Swine

Pigs consume feed that is likely to be contaminated with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are extremely widespread in all feeds containing grains, fruits, and protein sources.  Including derivatives and metabolites, there are hundreds of different mycotoxins.

It is widely accepted that pig feeds are frequently contaminated with multiple mycotoxins.  When present together, these toxins can combine to increase their detrimental effects.

Complex diets containing grain-based feeds all present a risk to pigs.  Straw bedding also presents a significant mycotoxin risk.

Typical mycotoxin exposure results in sub acute symptoms such as reduced feed intake, poorer FCR, lower fertility, higher disease rates, and a generally lower profitability.

Pigs are unable to reach their full potential when adversely affected by even low levels of mycotoxins.

High levels of toxins can result in acute symptoms such as elevated disease, necrosis or death.  Meat may also be unsuitable for human consumption for exceeding maximum permissible levels of toxins or their metabolites.

Know Your Risk, Take Control

Sources of Mycotoxins

Complex feed systems such as pellets and nuts used for pig feed present a significant risk of multiple mycotoxin exposure.

Such feeds are often found to contain Deoxynivalenol (DON), Zearalenone (ZON), and Fumonisins (FB1 and FB2), and can manifest as chronic health issues affecting performance and productivity.

Image of compound poultry feed

Compound Feed

Pelleting does not destroy mycotoxins.  Although any mould present within the feed may be killed, any mycotoxins they have laready produced will remain.

Often, you have little control over the input materials used for pellet production.  This makes it very difficult to control the mycotoxin risk without testing.

Straw Bale


Straw, a common feed and bedding material, is frequently overlooked as a source of mycotoxins.  The fungi responsible for causing producing mycotoxins in grains can also infect the plant stems.

Results from our 2018 straw survey show that straw is frequently contaminated with multiple mycotoxins.

Liquid Feeding System

Liquid Feed

Liquid feed poses the same risks as any other feeding method, although it is often more difficult to test it for mycotoxins.  Grains included in the formulation are likely to be the primary source of mycotoxins.  Mycocheck is able to test liquid feed for the same suite of mycotoxins as any other feed sample.  Please see our page on taking a sample for more information on the best way to submit a liquid feed sample for analysis.

Effects of Mycotoxins in Swine

Common symptoms of mycotoxins in swine could include the following:

Poor Growth Rate

Immune Suppression

Lower Conception Rate

Diarrhea and Faecal Stability

Reduced Milk Production and Quality

Pulmonary Oedema

Porcine Nephropathy

Skin Lesions

Specific symptoms associated with the main mycotoxins are provided below.

Aflatoxins are a particular concern when present in any amount.  AFB1 particularly is a potent carcinogen, and is metabolised by the liver into AFM1 which is also carcinogenic.

AFM1 can pass through to the milk, potentially exposing piglets also.  Due to it's high risk, Aflatoxin levels in feeds are heavily regulated1.


1.  Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006

Swine are particulalry susceptible to Fumonisin toxicosis.  Fumonisins have some common effects in all species including altered sphingolipid synthesis and hepatotoxicity,  but in pigs they cause a specific condition known as porcine pulmonary edema (PPE)2.  PPE can be an acute and often fatal condition.


2.  Haschek WM, Gumprecht LA, Smith G, Tumbleson ME, Constable PD. Fumonisin toxicosis in swine: An overview of porcine pulmonary edema and current perspectives. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(SUPPL. 2):251-257. doi:10.2307/3435016

Deoxynivalenol (DON) is the most frequently found mycotoxin in feed materials.  Pigs and other monogastric species are particularly vulnerable to mycotoxins due to the large amount of cereals present in their diets.

DON contamination primarily causes reduced weight gain due to feed refusal3.  Once ingested, DON can cause damage to the GI tract, causing leaky gut and reduced villus height.


3.  Pierron A, Alassane-Kpembi I, Oswald IP. Impact of two mycotoxins deoxynivalenol and fumonisin on pig intestinal health. Porc Heal Manag. 2016;2:1-8. doi:10.1186/s40813-016-0041-216

Zearalenone mimics the effects of oestrogen, and pigs are especially sensitive to these effects4.  This may result in pseudopregnancies, irregular heat cycles or vulvovaginitis.


4.  Kanora A, Maes D. The role of mycotoxins in pig reproduction: A review. Vet Med (Praha). 2009;54(12):565-576. doi:10.17221/156/2009-VETMED

Ochratoxins interfere with DNA and RNA synthesis as well as renal carbohydrate metabolism.

The primary losses due to Ochratoxin A contamination of feed come from loss of performance and health issues.  Ochratoxin A has been detected in pig tissues after consumption of contaminted feed5.


5.  Battacone G, Nudda A, Pulina G. Effects of Ochratoxin A on Livestock Production. Toxins (Basel). 2010;2(7):1796-1824. doi:10.3390/toxins2071796

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