What are mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are natural substances produced by moulds and fungi. They are invisible, stable and toxic chemical compounds commonly found in grains, forages and bedding. More than 500 different mycotoxins have been identified to date and most animal feedstuffs are likely to be contaminated with multiple mycotoxins.
They are generally referred to as being of either ‘field’ (Fusarium and Endophyte toxins) or ‘storage’ (Penicillium and Aspergillus) origin. Mould species coexist; and most can produce more than one mycotoxin.
The growth of moulds, and mycotoxin production, are most encouraged by environmental conditions such as temperature (hot/cool) and moisture (wet/dry). However, mycotoxins can also be produced by moulds when other stress conditions occur to the host plant or the mould.
Mycotoxins are synergistic, meaning combinations have a greater impact than single toxins. As a result, seemingly low levels of individual mycotoxins can have an impact.
Why are they a threat to horses?
Exposure to mycotoxins in pasture, mouldy conserved forage, purchased feeds and bedding presents a real threat to the health of equine animals. This exposure can also be long-term; many horses are high value animals with a much longer life span than agricultural livestock because of their status in human society. Horses need to be athletic, fit and involvement in competitions often means a higher level of stress as a result of travelling and competing. This can have a negative effect on the immune system, which means horses can be particularly susceptible to mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins can cause a variety of acute equine health problems including:
- Neurological disorders
Mycotoxins can also lead to cumulative chronic effects such as:
- Damage to organ function
- Reduced growth
- Respiratory problems
- Reproductive issues
The high value of horse breeding stock of both sexes means that any impact from mycotoxicoses on fertility and successful foaling is extremely costly. Any fertility or pregnancy problems should be thoroughly investigated. Unfortunately, symptoms will often be vague and vary greatly, making proper diagnosis very difficult. Careful recognition of any signs, post mortem diagnostics and thorough feed analyses are the only ways of making an accurate diagnosis of any mycotoxin-induced problem.
What to look out for?
Horses effected by mycotoxins can show signs of:
- Agitation and head shaking
- Decreased feed intake
- Reduced performance
How to test for it?
Identifying and addressing mycotoxins is very important and with the Alltech 37+® test, mycotoxins can’t remain hidden for long.
The Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analysis test is the cornerstone of our mycotoxin control program and between our labs in Lexington Kentucky and Dunboyne Ireland, we have run over 36,000 samples, each searching for over 40 mycotoxins in animal feed.
Alltech 37+® test results provide a realistic picture of feed contaminants in feed ingredients to speed up the process of diagnosis, suggest effective remediation and help move toward an effective mycotoxin control plan.
A full report is supplied just seven days after sample receipt with the major mycotoxin groups identified and the levels at which they have been found. Each sample submitted needs to be from one common feed source, i.e. hay or haylage. Instructions are included in the testing kit.
How to respond?
Forage Guard® is a feed supplement that reduces mycotoxin absorption* within the equine animal, offsetting the risks to health and performance that are associated with mycotoxin-induced damage. Its superior binding capabilities, broader adsorption profile and increased mycotoxin sequestration efficacy sets it apart from competitor products.
*Adsorption is the process by which carbohydrate components of yeast and algae cell walls bind to mycotoxins, removing them from the animal’s digestive tract.
Discover the mode of action of Forage Guard:
To order an Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analysis test kit, or to enquire after Forage Guard, please visit knowmymycotoxins.com or call us on 01780 764512.