There are approximately 500 known mycotoxins, and interactions between toxins can often make diagnosis difficult. Making matters even more complicated, the presence of masked mycotoxins in animal feed can lead to an underestimation of certain mycotoxins by up to 88 percent, thus explaining why analyzed feeds showing low levels of mycotoxins can still cause problems on-farm.
However, in the field of mycotoxin research, we’ve come a long way. That was the common theme among many of the world-renowned expert presenters at Alltech’s first annual North America Mycotoxin Management Summit, held Apr. 4-5, in Lexington, Ky. More than 65 industry members attended “Making Sense of the Maze... New Strategies for Old Problems,” where attendees discovered just how far mycotoxin research and analysis has come; and how far Alltech has taken it globally through their Mycotoxin Management Program.
“In the last two decades, advances in technology have altered our view of mycotoxin issues in the food chain. We now know it is a mycotoxin complex, and we have a better understanding of the physiological and pathological effects of mycotoxins,” said Dr. Karl Dawson, chief scientific officer at Alltech.
In his presentation, “Mycotoxin Research, 20 Years and What Have We Learned,” Dawson discussed how researchers are now able to detect a greater number of mycotoxins with the use of LC-MS/MS methodology (Alltech’s 37+ Program); can provide a risk assessment based on the mycotoxins that are found as they relate to the particular species being fed; and determine the correct mitigation strategy through balanced nutrition and the development of functional carbohydrates.
In addition to increased detection and assessment in the laboratory, researchers have also identified more risk factors at the farm level. According to Randy Asher, Animal Science Consulting, conditions such as stress (environmental, overcrowding, comfort), disease, diet and stray voltage can magnify a mycotoxin problem.There at least 16 contributing factors for low feed intake and no less than 13 parameters to consider for low milk production. Mycotoxins are only listed once on each of these lists; however, it is important to understand how these toxins might impact other factors in such a way that symptoms can be misleading.
“We are working with a big petri dish for fungal organisms. Know what you are actually dealing with. Troubleshoot. It is easy to blame a lot of things on mycotoxins, but we could have mycotoxins working with a lot of other conditions on the farm,” Asher said.