The start of the 2017 harvest season in Europe and North America brings renewed focus to the risk mycotoxins pose to poultry feed. While the challenge of mycotoxin risk management and mitigation has been an enduring concern for the poultry industry, the management tools and resources used to detect and mitigate mycotoxins have evolved dramatically, providing the industry with data-driven approaches to predict, detect and mitigate mycotoxin risk. Despite the advent of precision and evidence-based tools, several persistent myths threaten the approaches poultry farmers employ to manage the risk of mycotoxins in poultry feed.

Below, we examine and debunk three of the most persistent myths surrounding mycotoxins and poultry feed:

Myth 1: Mycotoxin risks tend to be region-specific and subject to climate conditions

While climate conditions indigenous to various regions (for example high temperatures and humidity levels in many parts of Asia) can be conducive to the development of molds and mycotoxins pre-harvest and in storage, the increasingly intercontinental nature of the feed raw material trade increases the risk of co-contamination with non-native mycotoxins. Processing of ingredients at the feed mill does not remove the threat mycotoxins pose. As mycotoxins are not degraded during the feed production process, it is essential that a mycotoxin risk management program assess the presence of mycotoxins in feed and also identify the particular mycotoxins present in order to redress the situation with an integrated yet specific strategy. The presence of co-mycotoxin contamination can affect animal health and performance in several ways including reductions in feed intake, nutrient utilization efficiency, immune response and reproductive ability.

Myth 2: Binders in feed are the only choice for mycotoxin risk management

Just as no single approach can inform bird health, no “one-size-fits-all” approach applies to mycotoxin management. Instead, an integrated approach is required that responds with solutions based on the unique mycotoxins identified. Analysis of the data provides a foundation upon which to build a prescriptive approach to mitigation. Depending on the analysis, feed formulation measures incorporating additives used in conjunction with binders can support bird performance while reducing the economic impact of mycotoxins and using feed solutions in the most efficient manner.

Myth 3: Little can be initiated pre-harvest to predict and manage mycotoxin risk

Global weather and trade conditions are constantly changing. Access to a global database indicating the presence and prevalence of common mycotoxins can assist in predicting risk and planning control measures to address potential contamination. Based on the real-time data accessed, potential management measures may include adding a mycotoxin solution at the recommended dose, controlling mold with inhibitors, adapting the feed formulation or purchasing strategy or simply changing the frequency of monitoring.

Each of the three myths outlined above supports a single key to mycotoxin control – effective mycotoxin risk management. An integrated program incorporating detection, analysis of the mycotoxin and its prevalence and implementation of prescriptive control measures tailored to conditions at the feed mill and on the farm, enables poultry feed mills and farmers to make decisions based not on myths, but on knowledge and data.