Recognizing Harmful Mycotoxin Symptoms

Recognizing Harmful Mycotoxin Symptoms

Management of mycotoxins has become the new normal for livestock operators, especially for cattle farms and ranches. Rainy conditions, high moisture content, and high humidity all contribute to the growth of fungi which can produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxin symptoms occur because of secondary metabolites that are produced by microfungi. As most farmers and livestock operators know, the effects of these symptoms are extremely harmful to the health and productivity of livestock and lead to an increase in the occurrence of disease, reproductive issues, and even death.

Recognizing Harmful Mycotoxin Symptoms (A.K.A. Mycotoxicosis)
It’s important to identify and treat symptoms as early as possible because, livestock which ingests mycotoxins can become severely ill and—in some cases—die as a result. This is especially true among heifers, cows, and calves.

Common Symptoms of Mycotoxin Exposure:
Symptoms of mycotoxicosis may vary depending on the type of mycotoxins, their interactions, species, the age and nutritional status of the animal affected, the concentration of toxins, the level of infection, and duration of exposure.

Symptoms of Subacute Toxicosis:

  • General unthriftiness
  • Weakness,
  • Anorexia,
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced feed efficiency
  • Extreme toxic condition symptoms:
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Abortion
  • Death

Many symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning can lead to kidney or liver damage if not treated early on. In addition, the longer an animal consumes feed that has been infected with mycotoxins, the greater the damage will be. For example, zearalenone toxins—produced by Fusarium sp—affect the reproductive system in pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry, and reduce overall productivity.

Treating Mycotoxicosis
The best way to treat mycotoxicosis is to prevent the growth of molds on feed and raw materials during storage. Mold inhibitors can be used to prevent the growth and spreading of molds and can help eliminate the costs associated with mold damage each year.

Eliminate Feed Costs Associated with Mold Damage Now!
According to an overview of mycotoxicosis from Professor Emeritus Gary D. Osweiler of Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, there are 6 principles that characterize mycotoxin diseases:

The cause may not be immediately identifiable
They are not transmissible from one animal to another
Treatment with drugs or antibiotics has little effect on the course of the disease
Outbreaks are often seasonal, because particular climatic sequences may favor fungal growth and toxin production
The study indicates a specific association with a particular feed
A large number of fungi or their spores found on examination of feedstuffs does not necessarily indicate that toxin production has occurred
Unfortunately, mycotoxins cannot usually be medically treated successfully once an animal has been diagnosed. Here is a list of the best preventative measures you can take:

Dispose of all moldy feed
Test raw materials and feed for mycotoxins or mold
Keep stored feeds and raw materials free of moisture
Use mold inhibitors to prevent fungal infestation
Effect of Mycotoxins
Mold is a common element in most farm ecosystems so the majority of farmers and livestock operators will deal with mycotoxin management during their career. The trouble with mycotoxins often begins in the crop growth phase and then carries into the feed and raw materials where it affects the health of livestock.

The effects of mycotoxins in silage and milk are worthy of special mention here.

Mycotoxins in Silage
Approximately 100 species of fungi produce secondary metabolites that are dangerous when ingested by animals and humans alike. Toxin-producing fungi often grow on plants that are harvested for feed—such as silage. Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Penicillium are the three most common types of species that grow on silage.

One of the dangers of these fungi is that they can still produce mycotoxins when their levels are low enough to avoid detection. This highlights the need for operators to begin using mold inhibitors early in the feed storage process.

Mycotoxins in Milk
“Milk quality—in relation to contaminants—is directly related to the type and quality of animal feed following the metabolism of mycotoxins and their subsequent excretion in milk.” The most common cause of mycotoxins in milk is associated with rumens consuming contaminated feed. This can be solved by preventing the growth of molds on feed through the use of feed moisture management combined with using mold inhibitors.