DESPITE HARVESTING problems caused by last summer”s poor weather, few producers are likely to see ruminant performance suffer as a result of mycotoxins, believes Biotal.

Even where mould is visibly present on forage it is unlikely that mycotoxins will be a problem, reckons Phil Caunt of Biotal. “Mycotoxins are produced by fungi when they become stressed.

“The physical presence of mould on forage actually shows that fungi are growing well, under little stress, so are unlikely to produce myco- toxins.” In forages analysed by Biotal this winter the levels of mycotoxins found have been far below acceptable levels, he says (see table).

The greatest chance of mycotoxins comes from imported feedstuffs, such as groundnut and cottonseed meal, he adds. Mycotoxin producing fungi occur more often in warmer climates, including southern Europe, parts of the USA and the southern hemisphere.

“Although some mycotoxin producing fungi occur in cooler northern European climates, the levels typically found in home-grown forages are normally insignificant,” reckons Dr Caunt.

With mycotoxins being found at such low levels in tests this year, anyone considering using specialist products to combat mycotoxins should have a forage analysis, costing 100, done first to confirm their presence before investing in these products, advises Dr Caunt.

“A recent HGCA survey also showed that mycotoxin levels in UK cereals remain low. This means UK producers feeding cattle or sheep a high proportion of home-grown feeds will have little risk of encountering dangerous levels of mycotoxins in rations,” he adds.