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Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala 144 620 Punjab, India email@example.com Introduction Mycotoxins are poisons produced by a type of fungus known as molds. These molds develop on various feedstuffs including roughages and concentrates, and produce mycotoxins in the field before harvest, or post-harvest, during storage, processing, or feeding. Mold growth and the production of mycotoxins are often related to the extremes in weather conditions which can cause plant stress or hydration of feedstuffs. Similarly, poor storage conditions affect feedstuff quality adversely and the feeding conditions. The most favourable conditions for mold infestation are a temperature range from 23°F to 140°F with approximately 70% humidity with sufficient oxygen, physical damage to the commodity, a wide range of pH because molds do not grow well at extreme low or high pH levels and presence of fungal spores. However, the requirements for mold growth vary with the type of mold, for example, Aspergillus species grow at lower moisture levels but aflatoxin production takes place at with higher temperatures, whereas Fusarium species generally require higher moisture levels and are able to grow at much lower temperatures. It is pertinent to note that conditions most suitable for mold growth do not necessarily indicate the optimum conditions for mycotoxin formation. For example, the Fusarium molds associated with alimentary toxic aleukia grow prolifically at temperatures of 77°F to 86°F without producing much mycotoxin. However, at near freezing temperatures large quantities of mycotoxins are produced without much mold growth. The Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium molds produce mycotoxins which are detrimental to cattle health. The mycotoxins of greatest concern are aflatoxin, which is produced by Aspergillus spp., deoxynivalenol (DON), zearalenone, T-2 Toxin, and fumonisin, which are produced by Fusarium spp. and ochratoxin produced by Penicillium spp. Several other mycotoxins, produced by these and other molds, are
known to be prevalent at times, including derivatives of those listed previously. A lack of observation and lack of simple analytical techniques has probably made it difficult to understand the prevalence of these and other mycotoxins and their impact on animal production. Fusarium commonly affects maize, wheat, barley, and also is found in oats, rye, and triticale. It causes field diseases such as head blight (scab) in small grains, and ear and stalk rots in maize, which are characterized by yield loss, quality loss, and mycotoxin contamination. Aspergillus flavus and aflatoxin in maize are favored by the heat and drought stress is enhanced by insect damage before and after harvest. Mode of Action and Symptoms: Mycotoxins increase disease incidence and reduce production efficiency in
cattle. They exert their effect by making alteration in nutrient content, absorption, and metabolism, changes in the endocrine and neuro-endocrine function and suppression of the immune system .The resulting symptoms are often nonspecific, making a diagnosis difficult. The difficulty of diagnosis is increased due to limited research, occurrence of multiple mycotoxins, nonuniform distribution, interactions with other factors, and problems of sampling and analysis. The observations which can be can be helpful in diagnosis are that mycotoxins should be considered as a possible primary factor resulting in production losses and increased incidence of disease whereas documented symptoms in ruminants or other species and specific damage caused to target tissues can be used as a guide to possible causes. Similarly, postmortem examinations may indicate no more than gut irritation, edema, or generalized tissue inflammation. Rule out other possible causes, such as infectious agents or other toxins. Analyze feeds for common mycotoxins. Observe for responses to simple treatments, such as dilution or removal of the contaminated feed. The dairy units suffer from a mycotoxicosis typically have a loss in milk production. Fresh cows perform poorly and generally have an increased incidence of
disease. Usually there is intermittent diarrhea, sometimes with bloody or dark manure. Cows may not respond well to typical veterinary therapy. Symptoms may be nonspecific and wide ranging like reduced feed intake. feed refusal, unthriftiness, rough hair coat, undernourished appearance, subnormal production, increased abortions or embryonic mortalities, silent heats or irregular estrus cycles, expression of estrus in pregnant cows, decreased conception rates. There may also be a higher incidence of disease, particularly in fresh cows, such as displaced abomasum, ketosis, retained placenta, metritis, mastitis, and fatty livers. Aflatoxin Aflatoxin, produced primarily by Aspergillus flavus, is a mycotoxin of major concern, because it is carcinogenic and is commonly found in ground nuts and maize. Milk levels of aflatoxin will be about 1.7% the concentration found in the total ration dry matter. Aflatoxin residues can be found in tissues, and thus, cattle should not be fed aflatoxin-contaminated diets for 21 days prior to slaughter. Aflatoxins often cause nervous symptoms in affected animals. The reproductive effects of aflatoxins include abortion, the birth of weak, deformed calves and reduced fertility caused by reduced vitamin A levels. Although no level of aflatoxin is considered safe, the degree of toxicity is related to level of toxin, duration of feeding, and the amount of other stresses affecting the animal. Levels above 300 ppb to 700 ppb are considered toxic to cattle . Impure sources of aflatoxin produced by culture are more detrimental than equal amounts of pure aflatoxin. Deoxynivalenol (DON) or Vomitoxin DON is a Fusarium-produced mycotoxin and is one of the more commonly detected mycotoxins. Incidence may be as high as 50% to 80% of feeds. DON is the primary mycotoxin associated with swine health problems including feed refusals, diarrhea, vomiting, reproductive failure, and deaths. In cattle, DON has been associated with reduced feed intake and milk production. It is speculated that other specific
mycotoxins may be present with DON in naturally- contaminated feeds which enhance the toxicity. DON serves as a marker which indicates exposure of feed to a situation conducive to mold growth and mycotoxin formation. A positive DON analysis suggests the possible presence of other mycotoxins or factors more toxic than DON itself. A dietary level of 300 ppb to 500 ppb DON may cause problems when fed to cattle. T-2 Toxin T-2 toxin, a Fusarium-produced mycotoxin occurs in a fairly low proportion of feed samples .It results in reduced feed consumption, loss in yield, gastroenteritis, intestinal hemorrhages, and death. T-2 is known to suppress immunity and interfere with protein synthesis. It is toxic to the intestine, lymphoid tissues, liver, kidney, spleen, and bone marrow. A calf given T-2 via a stomach tube developed severe depression, hind quarter ataxia, listlessness, and anorexia. T-2 is a severe gastrointestinal tract irritant, which can cause hemorrhage and necrosis of the intestinal tract. Diarrhea is usually present but may not be hemorrhagic. With high levels of T-2, there can be congestion and irritation to the stomach, intestines, liver, lungs, and heart. T-2 may not occur alone and thus, naturally-contaminated feeds may contain other similar toxins. Zearalenone (F-2) Zearalenone is a Fusarium-produced mycotoxin which elicits an estrogenic response in monogastrics. As with other mycotoxins, its occurrence is dependent on seasonal weather conditions, with zearalenone being more prevalent in wet and cool seasons. Large doses cause abortions in cattle. Other cattle responses may include vaginitis, vaginal secretions, poor reproductive performance, and mammary gland enlargement of virgin heifers. Zearalenone may result in poor feed intake, a loss of milk production, poor conception, and increased reproductive tract infections. Other Mycotoxins
Many other mycotoxins may affect ruminants but are thought to occur less frequently or be less potent. Diacetoxy-scirpenol, HT-2, and neosolaniol may occur along with T-2 toxin and cause similar symptoms. Fumonisin is less potent than other mycotoxins, but in large amounts can affect cattle. Ochratoxin has been reported to affect cattle, but it is rapidly degraded in the rumen. Thus, it is thought to be of little consequence except for pre-ruminants. Testing of Mycotoxins Analytical techniques for mycotoxins are improving. Several commercial laboratories are available and provide screens for a large array of mycotoxins. Cost of analyzes has been a constraint but can be insignificant compared with the economic consequences of production and health losses related to mycotoxin contamination. Collection of representative feed samples is a problem primarily because molds can produce vary large amounts of mycotoxins in small areas making the mycotoxin level highly variable within the lot of feed. Samplings of horizontal silos show mycotoxins to be highly variable throughout the silage, however, the silo face appears to have higher levels. Because mycotoxins can form in the collected sample, therefore, it should be preserved and delivered to the laboratory quickly for analysis. Samples can be dried, frozen, or treated with a mold inhibitor before shipping. Prevention and Treatment Prevention of mycotoxin formation is essential since there are very few ways to completely overcome problems once mycotoxins are present. Ammoniation of grains can destroy some mycotoxins, but there is no practical method to detoxify affected forages. Following accepted silage-making practices aimed at preventing deterioration primarily through elimination of oxygen is a very important mycotoxin-preventative management practice. Some additives may be beneficial in reducing myco-toxins because they are effective in reducing mold growth. Ammonia, propionic acid, and microbial or enzymatic silage additives are partially effective at inhibiting mold growth.
Silo size should be matched to herd size to ensure daily removal of silage at a rate faster than deterioration. Feed bunks should be cleaned regularly. Care should be taken to ensure that high moisture grains are stored at proper moisture content and in a wellmaintained structure. Grains or other dry feed, such as hay, should be stored at a moisture content (<14%) below which molds do not readily grow. Aeration of grain bins is important to reduce moisture migration and to keep the feedstuffs in good condition. Obviously, moldy feed should be avoided. If unacceptably high levels of mycotoxins occur, dilution or removal of the contaminated feed is preferable. However, it is often a problem to completely replace some feeds in the ration, particularly the forage ingredients. Increasing nutrients such as protein, energy, and antioxidants may be advisable. It has been suggested that cattle may respond to certain vitamins and minerals, especially those with antioxidant activity whereas acidic diets may intensify the effects of mycotoxins. Favorable results have been seen when adsorbent materials, such as clays (bentonites), are added to mycotoxin-contaminated diets of rats, poultry, swine, and cattle. Adsorbent materials bind some mycotoxins, reducing their availability to the animal. However, much additional research is needed on prevention and treatment of mycotoxins.