Technical Tip - Spotting Mycotoxin Issues in the Breeding Sow

  • Mould growth in feed materials is a common problem and so mycotoxins can pose a serious risk to animals.
  • Mycotoxicosis can lead to high economic losses, exceeding £100 million annually in swine (Hussein & Brasel, 2001) due to losses in performance and fertility as well as increased susceptibility to secondary diseases.
  • Mycotoxins are usually co-occurring (Streit et al., 2013) and so the cumulative deleterious effects of their presence can be at lower levels than recommended EU limits.

    Immune Suppression and Hepatic Disorders

    • The immune system can be suppressed in the presence of mycotoxins, especially aflatoxin, which leads to a higher susceptibility to secondary infections and impaired resistance to infections.
    • Mycotoxins such as ochratoxin and fumonisin are known to cause kidney and liver toxicities through the buildup of secondary metabolites in the blood. This can cause organ failure and sudden death.

    Infertility and Delayed Puberty in Gilts

    • Relatively low levels of zearalenone (ZEA) can have a negative impact on young gilts, delaying or stopping puberty altogether.
    • Prolonged exposure to mycotoxins can cause prolapses of the uterus and abortions in all parities.
    • Drastic reductions in conception rates and an increase in returns to oestrus can be a sign of high mycotoxin burden as most toxins can cause this.

    Poor Feed Intake and Vomiting

    • Feed refusal can be a sign of deoxynivalenol (DON), also known as vomitoxin, in the feed.  With prolonged exposure this can cause vomiting.     
    • Oral lesions and poor growth rates may also be a sign of toxins in the feed, even at low levels of contamination.  

    Safeguarding Performance 

    • Monitoring incoming feedstocks and bedding will help to understand the risks for the unit and allow for the segregation of high toxin containing materials which should not be used.     
    • Poor fertility and sow sudden death could be an indication of a mycotoxin contamination and will reduce profitability.     
    • Feeding a broad spectrum binder, especially one capable of providing protection against DON and ZEA, to the breeding herd will limit the deleterious effects of toxins.  

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