HIGH LEVELS of mycotoxins in grain have been recorded across Europe.

The toxic grain impacts on feed quality as well as animal health and performance, and harvest samples from across Europe that have been submitted to Alltech’s analytical services laboratory in 2018 show high levels of mycotoxins, particularly deoxynivalenol, fusaric acid and fumonisin, and the testing confirmed problems both for grains and forages, said the company.

“Mycotoxins thrive in changeable conditions, with lack of rain, excessive rainfall or, sometimes, one after the other causing a perfect storm of contamination,” said Dr Max Hawkins, who offers technical support to Alltech’s mycotoxin management team.

“The extreme weather events that we’ve seen this year around the world have led to an increased occurrence of mycotoxins in many countries. In Europe, the weather from May to July was dry and drought-like, especially in the north and this impacted on the types of mycotoxins livestock producers must contend with. However, the weather changed in August, alleviating most of the drought but bringing surplus rain around harvest time – which often results in the increased presence of trichothecenes and fusarium-type mycotoxins," he pointed out. Forage samples from across Europe also showed high levels of mycotoxins, which can impair the performance of ruminants. Grass silage samples from across Europe showed a 100% occurrence of fusaric acid, while maize silage showed a 100% occurrence of type B trichothecenes. Both these mycotoxins can be problematic in ruminants, as they can be detrimental to rumen health and rumen function.

“Corn silage can typically be more problematic, as it’s in the field longer and exposed to more environmental factors,” said Dr Hawkins. “We also see a bigger risk from mycotoxins as we’re not just bringing in the grain but the plant itself, which means more mycotoxins are in the mix.”

The biggest threat to the wheat crop and barley in Europe is type B trichothecenes. This was present in 56% of wheat samples and 70% of barley samples, with results from Croatia, Serbia and Spain showing a 100% occurrence of type B trichothecenes.

On average, the maize samples showed the presence of three different mycotoxins, mostly coming from fumonisins. These mycotoxins can be particularly damaging for finishing pigs, said Alltech’s expert.

But toxins are seldom found in isolation, and when multiple types are consumed, they may have additive, or even synergistic, interactions that increase the overall risk to the animal’s performance and health.

“The annual Alltech Harvest Analysis, which utilises the Alltech 37+ mycotoxin analysis, provides an assessment of contaminants in feed ingredients and potential risks to livestock. Between labs located in Lexington, Kentucky, and Dunboyne, Ireland, the programme tested more than 26,000 samples of animal feed, for more than 50 mycotoxins,” added Dr Hawkins.