Q. Can spoiled silage negatively affect animal health?

A. Low quality or contaminated feedstuffs can negatively affect animal health. This applies to silage and any other ration component.

An increasing concern in silage is mycotoxins, which can have many deleterious effects on animal health, fertility and productivity. Mycotoxins are produced by specific molds, which are impossible to entirely avoid in the process of growing and storing crops for cattle feed.

The most commonly detected mycotoxins in forages are produced by Fusarium species, followed by Aspergillus and Penicillium. Fusarium ear and stalk rot and head blight is common in corn grown in warm, humid climates. Stress and damage increase the incidence of mold growth and mycotoxin production in the field, including insect, rodent, rain, hail and lodging damage, drought and floods. This can allow fungi to grow and produce mycotoxins.

It’s hard to tell if silages are contaminated without testing. Mycotoxins can be present even when molds are not visible. However, visibly moldy forages should not be fed due to the possible presence of mycotoxins. Furthermore, the color or level of mold infestation does not necessarily reflect mycotoxin contamination.

A producer’s best bet is to use sound silage management techniques to reduce the opportunity for mold growth and mycotoxin production. To help minimize spoilage, use proven silage inoculants. For example, silage inoculated with Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will be more resistant to heating and spoilage as this organism reduces yeast levels, which improves feed stability. L. buchneri 40788 applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of silage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC), has been uniquely reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim improved aerobic stability.

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