The game is changing when it comes to feeding livestock and poultry. Many factors have impacted this, from the renewable fuels act to the weather, but the net result is that energy and protein markets are at record highs with producers looking at every possible way to reduce feed costs. Many in the industry are turning to so-called “alternative raw materials” – commodities such as dried distillers grains with solubles, mill run, corn gluten, rice bran and others. These ingredients can be significantly cheaper than traditional energy and protein sources, and should not affect animal performance if used as part of a balanced diet.

When assessing any new feed ingredient it is always critical to characterize it. A part of that, particularly for some of the ingredients mentioned above, should relate to mycotoxin contamination.

Increased risks  

As we move toward the increased use of processed and fibrous materials, the risk of mycotoxin contamination increases through the distillation and fractionation of mycotoxins into the finished by-products. Figure 1 shows a recent report from Dairyland Labs showing that 100 percent of 130 DDG samples tested positive for vomitoxin at some level, with 108, or 83 percent of these, testing positive between 1ppm and 6ppm.

Given the economic current scenario, it is hard to suggest not using by-products or alternatives. However, as the industry moves to include a greater amount of these in any given diet, it is important to understand the potential risk of contamination each ingredient can bring into the final diet.

Monitoring procedures  


When choosing an effective mycotoxin control program, feed mills and producers should follow a program that includes detailed management for critical control points at the farm and feed mill levels. This involves setting up good monitoring procedures as well as identifying critical levels for the given animal species being fed.

A successful mycotoxin control program should:

  • Incorporate monitoring procedures
  • Establish corrective actions
  • Contain checks and measurements
  • Include a way to record information

Importance of motivation  

With any mycotoxin control program, it is important to build a motivated team that can create and implement the program within the organization. The implementation of the program requires knowledge and motivation from the start, and, as with any long-term project, it should involve education and training so that everyone can feel responsible for its success.

The goal of a good mycotoxin control program should be to understand the level of mycotoxin challenges coming in to the supply chain so that steps can be taken to mitigate their negative effects on animal performance. This involves setting up good monitoring procedures as well as identifying critical levels for the species being fed.

With this information, the correct balance can be struck between economical feeding and optimal animal performance as it relates to mycotoxins.