Research – The underestimated risk of mycotoxins in dairy cows

All About Feed

It is a myth that rumen microbial activity allows dairy cows to handle mycotoxin toxicity completely. A closer look at rumen degradation capability shows that this is not the case. Therefore, a mitigation strategy should be holistic, practical and beyond binding.

Risk, impact, and diagnostics

A complex and diverse Total Mixed Ration (TMR) poses multiple mycotoxin toxicity challenges. Although rumen microbes can reduce the toxicity of some mycotoxins, not all mycotoxins are equally degraded in the rumen. In high-yielding dairy cows high-starch diets can compromise the detoxification capacity of rumen microbes. For some mycotoxins, such as zearalenone (ZEN), rumen degradation may increase the toxicity. Furthermore, extended periods of exposure to low levels of multiple mycotoxins may lead to chronic toxicity, an increasing issue that is notoriously difficult to diagnose at an early stage.

Mycotoxins can threaten dairy cows’ health, rumen function, feed intake, milk yield, milk quality, lameness, and reproductive abilities. Many “mouldy silage syndrome” cases in the field have shown incidences of increased somatic cell counts, undigested faecal feed particles, laminitis, mastitis and ruminitis cases. Cases of reproductive challenges and vaccination failures have been reported with multiple mycotoxins in TMR.

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