This year, producers endured multiple challenges during the corn growing and harvesting season. Today, producers find themselves feeding out newly fermented corn silage and worrying about exposing their herd to higher-than-average levels of molds or mycotoxins.
Assess conditions during harvest
Mycotoxins are produced by specific molds, which cannot be completely be avoided in the process of growing and storing crops for feed. Harvest conditions are an important factor to assess your operation’s risk of mycotoxin contamination. If corn was grown under stressors like drought, weed or insect infestation, or drought, the resulting silage is more susceptible to fungal infestation and could possibly lead to production of mycotoxins.
There will likely be lower the natural population of lactic acid bacteria on the plants. Yet, this risk can be offset if a research-proven forage inoculant was used at ensiling.
Understand risks to productivity
Mycotoxins can be the source of several important herd health and production problems ranging from reduced feed intake to suppressed immune response. Although, ruminants are more resistant to the effects of mycotoxins than monogastric animals like pigs and poultry. However, the toxins can disrupt rumen function in important ways. In addition, it can be risky for producers to estimate how much mycotoxin exposure a herd can withstand.
Often, mycotoxin testing is performed after animals’ exhibit reduced performance or health problems — meaning producers are already dealing with the financial effects. Researchers have found that, when ingested, mycotoxins can cause lactic acid to build up. This can result in Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA). When SARA occurs, the animal’s ability to use the ration efficiently is impaired and can lead to other, more serious, health problems.1
Maintain optimal rumen function
To avoid these consequences, do not feed visibly moldy silage. This solves part of the problem as mycotoxin content is not necessarily related to the amount of mold seen. If contaminated feed manages to reach the feed bunk, it’s important for animals to have optimal rumen function. Producers can include a research-proven active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic in the ration to help achieve this goal.
ADY probiotics like LEVUCELL® SC that include the strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 have a high capacity to increase pH and fiber digestibility in the rumen. Probiotic feed additives can help improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion. This can help avoid reduced production due to several herd health challenges, including mycotoxins.
1 Acidosis in Dairy Cattle. Penn State Extension. Created Sept. 8, 2004. Accessed Jan. 20, 2017. Available at: http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/news/2004/acidosis-in-dairy-cattle.