Even with all necessary procedures and safeguards in place, every farmer should still prepare for potential feed contamination by mycotoxins.
At every stage from feed processing to ingestion, there are risks that – if not managed – can result in a reduction in productivity. Regular analysis of your feed equips you with the information you need to protect against a reduction in your farm’s efficiency.
How contamination occurs
When purchasing feed, trusted suppliers are a reliable measure of quality, but this does not guarantee freedom from contamination. Feed is never always the same, no matter the source – even if you produce your own, nutrient levels can vary. Testing feed helps to ensure that it meets the requirements for your animals’ performance. Animal health, protein and vitamin intake, and level of grain supplementation are all affected by the composition of feed ingested.
Contamination is possible even in transit. Raw materials are transported in bulk, and outside elements might enter the materials before being processed into feed. However, there are safeguards in place: magnets remove harmful materials during the manufacturing process, and most physical contaminants do not create food safety risks for the animal.
The risk of mycotoxins
The greater risk comes at the chemical level; specifically, the possible presence of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are natural products of mold and fungi found in agricultural commodities worldwide. Although the average farmer underestimates the danger of these contaminants, a BIOMIN study of over 16,000 samples showed that 94% contained 10 or more mycotoxins and metabolites. Symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning can be difficult to identify, but can cause a real cumulative impact on an animals’ productivity, even when at very low levels, due to prolonged exposure and synergistic effects.
How to test for mycotoxins
In a BIOMIN webinar, growers were asked how they tested for mycotoxins. 55% use an external analytical service, and a further 25% test on-site. For an easy solution that adapts to each individual farm’s needs, BIOMIN sister company, Romer Labs® offers both options as preferred.
No matter the method, a correct sampling plan is the basis for reliable results. 88% of total analytical errors stem from improper sampling, so it’s important to follow set procedures. Both the FAO and EU and offer full step-by-step guidelines for sampling to ensure correct testing. Mycotoxins are not necessarily distributed in a uniform way. Concentrated areas of toxins (referred to as “hot spots”) can later contaminate other areas of feed, even if previous tests came back as negative. For accurate results be sure to take several samples from across the whole batch – and at different heights – for a thorough representation.