This year’s changeable weather – particularly during forage ensiling – could translate to compromised silage quality and an increased risk to cow health and productivity due to contamination.

Hence, milk producers are being warned of the potential for grass and maize silages to contain levels of mycotoxins deemed at a higher-than-average risk for use in dairy production.

According to Mike Chown, ruminant technical manager with UFAC-UK an increased presence of moulds and mycotoxins can greatly affect health and productivity in dairy herds.

The Scottish Farmer: Mike ChownMike Chown (Image: web)

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi that readily colonise crops in the field and storage. Even at very low levels, they are particularly harmful to ruminants, particularly freshly calved dairy cows.

“Performance can be altered when consuming mycotoxin-contaminated feed for extended periods. We may see reduced feed efficiency due to reducing cellulose digestion, volatile fatty acid production, and rumen mobility,” explains Mr Chown.

“Mycotoxins within the rumen can have a major effect on the rumen microbes, ultimately reducing feed digestibility, which will subsequently reduce available nutrients for milk production, body conditioning and reproduction,” he added.

The effects of mycotoxin challenge appear quickly and are best treated equally fast to minimise the losses resulting from them. A combination of control measures is essential to reduce risks, and the use of a broad-spectrum binder will optimise the ability to achieve this.

Independently trialled at the centre of mycotoxin research, Gent University, Mycotrap is a specialised clay mineral compound with an effective binding solution, helping to minimise the levels of mycotoxins within the rumen, and at low pH, so is effective throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it reduces their overall affect.

The Scottish Farmer: Silage with fungi and moulds will affect the health and production of animalsSilage with fungi and moulds will affect the health and production of animals (Image: web)

“Mycotrap works by incorporating specific activated clay minerals with added glucose pre-cursor, glycerine, to provide enhanced toxin control and improved liver function. Glycerine also has anti-mould properties which helps minimise heating in the TMR,” says Mr Chown.

As well as minimising the risk of mycotoxin poisoning, the inclusion of glycerine means the product helps the animal cope with the consequences as well.

As a precursor of glucose, glycerine helps boost the animal’s energy supply to fight infections and so supports the recovery of the immune system. In addition, it also acts as a preservative, helping minimise the deterioration of feeds caused by the moulds which produce mycotoxins.

It is a free-flowing and palatable product, easily incorporated into feeds, helping to maintain healthy productive animals.”