If your cows are in good health, but not milking as well as they ought, mycotoxin contamination of feed could be to blame, suggested David Parfitt of feed additive supplier, Micron Bio-systems.

Speaking at the Large Herd Seminar, Mr Parfitt said mycotoxins were a growing problem and could affect most livestock feeds, whether raw material or processed ingredients, bulk stored, ensiled or bunkered.

He suggested the following areas to look out for on farm:

  • Mycotoxins, nature’s natural poisons, are formed by mould on feedstuffs – in particular cereal or cereal-based ingredients – and reduce the quality of the host material.

  • Look out for tell-tale white hairy mould as an indicator of mycotoxin contamination. Other signs within stored material include fist-sized reddish areas of spoilage surrounded by bands of grey or brown contamination.

  • Do not feed contaminated material. As a poison, dispose of spoilt material in the slurry lagoon or muck store.

  • Scientific trials have found just 0.5 parts per million of mycotoxins is sufficient to affect cow performance and health. Symptoms are often sub-clinical, for example a fall in milk yield, effectively applying an invisible handbrake on cow performance.

  • Where fed, mycotoxins affect the stability of rumen microflora and their ability to break down feed into usable fractions. Limiting nutrients affects milk yield and cow health.

  • In severe cases, mycotoxins can enter a cow’s bloodstream through damage to the rumen lining in stressed cows – particularly those suffering sub-acute rumenal acidosis (SARA) – affecting health.

  • As 90% of cereal-based mycotoxins contamination is caused by in-field conditions, consider adding an in-feed mycotoxin inhibitor