UFAC-UK has warned farmers to be aware of, and mitigate mycotoxin risk to avoid performance shortfalls in their dairy herds.

The animal nutrition specialist said that production drops, compromised performance and negative impact on fertility are all likely when cattle are consuming mycotoxin-contaminated feed.

The changeable weather challenges this year, particularly during forage ensiling, could translate to compromised silage quality; but also an increased risk to health and productivity due to contamination, dairy producers are being warned.

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi that readily colonise crops in the field and in storage.

Even at very low levels, they are extremely harmful to ruminants, particularly freshly calved dairy cows, UFAC-UK said.

Mike Chown

Ruminant technical manager for UFAC-UK, Mike Chown, said: “An increased presence of moulds and mycotoxins can greatly affect health and productivity in dairy herds.

“Performance can be altered when consuming mycotoxin-contaminated feed for extended periods.

“We may see reduced feed efficiency due to reducing cellulose digestion, volatile fatty acid production, and rumen mobility.

“Mycotoxins within the rumen can have a major effect on the rumen microbes, ultimately reducing feed digestibility, which will subsequently reduce available nutrients for milk production, body conditioning and reproduction.

“Reducing the effect of mycotoxins means better immunity to disease challenges, improved daily feed intake and increased milk production.”