The results are in, and this year’s North American corn silage crop contains a mixture of molds and mycotoxins, putting beef and dairy cattle at high risk for mycotoxin exposure and performance problems, including a 3.5-pound average loss in milk yield, according to a recent survey by Alltech.

A survey of 59 North American corn silage samples from across the U.S. and Canada from September to November 2014 tested for mycotoxin contamination through Alltech’s 37+ mycotoxin analysis; it found an average of 6.1 mycotoxins per sample. This year’s analysis took the information from the survey one step further, revealing the costs associated with mycotoxin contamination and what dairy and beef producers can save by utilizing the company’s mycotoxin management.

“Based on Alltech’s 37+ results of the 2014 harvest of corn silage, we see that the risk of mycotoxins to dairy cows is high. Scientific literature shows that at a similar risk level, cows may produce 3.5 pounds (1.6 L)/milk/day less when consuming mycotoxins,” said Dr. Alexandra Weaver, a member of the compnay’s mycotoxin management team.

“Additionally, milk somatic cell count was shown to increase by 39 percent. With this loss of performance, the reduction in profitability per cow is an estimated decrease of $1.54/day.”

Weaver examined more than 90 peer-reviewed papers on the cost implications mycotoxins can have on animal production. An analysis is still underway on the costs associated with mycotoxicoses in beef cattle.


“Deductions in milk yield and rising SCC numbers may not be observable on a daily basis, but producers will notice the difference in production at the milk tank,” Weaver said.

Many times it is not an acute case that can be readily identified, but a chronic situation associated with the ingestion of a low level of mycotoxins over an extended period of time. This results in a wide array of subclinical symptoms that slowly reduce performance, eat away at the producer’s bottom line and compromise animal health.

“While we boasted a record crop this year, quantity does not determine quality,” said Dr. Max Hawkins, nutritionist with the company’s mycotoxin management team. “This year’s cool, wet weather delayed planting and harvesting, and now that harvest is complete, we are dealing with storage and transportation issues that are putting the 2014 crop at additional risk for mycotoxin growth.”

Hawkins said while Midwest samples contained more mycotoxins with an average of 6.7 per sample, East Coast and Canadian grains still should be a concern for cattle producers as the company’s risk equivalent quantity (REQ) puts North American corn silage at a moderate to high risk level.

The REQ is an evaluation of the total toxicity of a given mycotoxin mixture based on the amount of individual mycotoxins in reference to aflatoxin B1. The average REQ for this year’s corn silage is 276 for dairy and 220 for beef, putting both groups at high risk.

“Mycotoxins can impact the whole body. Even low levels of mycotoxins can impact performance, and multiple mycotoxins increase that risk,” Hawkins said. “We must remember corn silage is only one ingredient in the ration; other feedstuffs can introduce additional mycotoxins.” PD

—From Alltech news release