It is well established that pigs are the species most sensitive to the effects of mycotoxin exposure. From decades of research we know that mycotoxins tend to occur in groups. This phenomenon, known as co-exposure, is quite common as demonstrated by the latest edition of the annual BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey, which covers 6,844 agricultural commodity samples from 64 countries. In total, over 80 percent of samples tested positive for the presence of one or more mycotoxins.

Yet, regional variation relating to agriculture and climate mean that the mycotoxins found in swine feed vary by locale. So pigs in one part of the world may face different mycotoxin-related threats than those in another. Furthermore, given the widespread occurrence of mycotoxin in feed and the high sensitivity of advanced detection methods, it is important to qualify the presence of mycotoxins using the concentration levels as measured in parts per billion.

Mycotoxin occurrence and risks

Figures 1, 2 and 3 depict the percent of samples that tested positive for each of the six major mycotoxins in the main components used for swine feed, including finished feed, maize, wheat and soybean per region. Bars indicate percentage of samples testing positive for mycotoxin presence. Dots indicate percentage of samples registering concentrations known to likely impair animal health or performance. The main risks and recommended maximum concentration levels of each mycotoxin for swine are displayed in Table 1.

dangers of mycotoxins to pigs

Pigs are the most susceptible to the negative effects of mycotoxins. 

prevalence of mycotoxins in swine feed

Despite clear differences in the mycotoxin profiles of the three regions, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone and fumonisins were the most prominent mycotoxins for all of them.

Europe

In Europe, finished feed and maize contained the highest mycotoxin challenge. Deoxynivalenol, zearalenone and fumonisins were the most common mycotoxins in European regions. Concentrations of deoxynivalenol were particularly high, with average values exceeding the threshold level a majority of the time. Zearalenone occurrence and concentrations in maize (corn) were similarly high.

Asia Pacific

Here, all the major Fusarium mycotoxins (zearalenone, deoxynivalenol and fumonisins) registered high occurrence in finished feed and maize. Tested wheat samples contained high levels of deoxynivalenol with average concentrations exceeding the risk threshold level in nearly all cases. Soybean showed a variable contamination of all major mycotoxin groups tested.

Americas

Fumonisins and deoxynivalenol were the most common mycotoxins in finished feed and maize samples sourced in the Americas. Wheat showed a high prevalence of deoxynivalenol (90 percent) and zearalenone (70 percent), the former at concentration levels above the risk threshold in most cases. Zearalenone occurrence reached 60 percent in soybean samples, far surpassing the other identified mycotoxins.

Regional comparisons

Despite clear differences in the mycotoxin profiles of the three regions, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone and fumonisins were the most prominent mycotoxins for all of them. The high levels of zearalenone in Europe were somewhat uncommon and are related to the high Fusarium challenge in corn this year, reaching levels more typically found in Asia. Its prevalence in both wheat and soybeans also stands out and should be monitored given the estrogenic effects of zearalenone. T-2 toxin was particularly noticeable in Europe compared to Asia and the Americas. Fumonisins reached quite high levels in the Americas. In all regions, deoxynivalenol registered high prevalence and high average concentrations above the risk threshold.

Action plan

While regional variation in mycotoxin occurrence and concentrations were observed, the recommended mycotoxin risk management strategies comprise the same two-step program. First, in light of the frequent presence of multiple mycotoxins in feedstuffs, regular monitoring for multiple mycotoxins is crucial. Second, preventive application of a mycotoxin deactivating feed additive designed to combat a broad spectrum of mycotoxins is key to mitigate their negative effects. These measures, along with the implementation of good agricultural practices and proper feed storage, can help protect animals and support optimum performance.