Aflatoxin contamination of corn
Mycotoxins are produced by molds in several feedstuff, but most concerns of livestock producers revolve around aflatoxin contamination of corn. Aflatoxin is produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which thrives during conditions of high humidity and high temperature at harvest time. Insect damage to the grain also increases the amount of fungal growth because it allows entry into the grain. Aflatoxin contamination appears to be more of a problem during drought stress. In addition, if corn is not properly dried down, aflatoxin levels can increase greatly during storage.
All classes of livestock can be affected by aflatoxins, but some are more sensitive than others. Poultry and swine are more sensitive than cattle and sheep. Younger animals of all species are more sensitive than mature animals. Effects of aflatoxins include feed refusal, decreased weight gains, decreased milk production, decreased resistance to infection, decreased reproductive performance, and even death at high levels of contamination. Lactating dairy animals are a special concern because low levels of aflatoxins in the feed can result in unacceptable levels passing into the milk. This can lead to a producer's milk being dumped.
The following guidelines for feeding levels of aflatoxins are considered safe under normal conditions. Animals under stress or disease situations may react to lower levels.
- Corn containing greater than 20 ppb should not be fed to young animals of any species.
- The total rations of lactating dairy cows should contain less than 20 ppb on a dry basis.
- The total ration of breeding swine, lactating beef cows, and weanling cattle should contain less than 100 ppb.
- The total ration of finishing swine, over 100 pounds, should contain less than 200 ppb.
- The total ration of dry beef cows and yearling cattle should contain less than 300 ppb.
- Rations for stressed feeder cattle should contain no more than 20 ppb of aflatoxin. Stressful conditions include weaning, shipping, extreme heat or cold, diseases, and parasites.
Producers should be concerned about aflatoxins but not panic. By being aware of the potential danger, steps can be taken to avoid problems. These steps include:
- Buying or harvesting high quality corn and drying it below 14 peracent moisture before storing.
- Screening corn to clean it of broken and damaged kernels can lower the level of aflatoxin contamination since levels are highest in damaged corn. However, this means that producers who are fond of using corn screenings should be especially concerned about aflatoxins.
- If there is reason to suspect a problem, get a good representative sample of the corn and have it checked for aflatoxins prior to feeding it. Using a blacklight test is of questionable value since it tends to give a lot of false positive readings. If it is determined that aflatoxins are present, then send a sample to the Mississippi State University Chemical Laboratory or a private lab to determine the actual concentration. Aflatoxin analyses are usually performed about 2 or 3 days after reaching the state laboratory at a cost of $30.00 per sample. Once a level of contamination is determined, you can work with a nutritionist to determine how much of this corn can safely be fed.
Aflatoxin is a real concern this year but it can be dealt with if producers are aware of the potential dangers and realize that the best treatment is preventing animals from consuming high levels. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance in dealing with aflatoxin questions. (Animal Dairy Sciences Department 662-325-3516)
Agricultural clients met with Mississippi State University personnel to discuss research and education needs during the annual Producer Advisory Council Meeting for the southwest region February 20.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Low feed costs and steady demand are keeping the playing field level for Mississippi swine producers, but the bottom line at year’s end will be down from 2014 totals.
Mississippi’s value of production for hogs was $153 million last year. No estimates are available for 2015, but hog prices have been much lower than they were in 2014, while hog numbers were higher at the first of the year.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Specialty markets in pork production are cropping up across the U.S. in response to a growing interest in pasture-raised pigs.
Before the 1960s, most U.S. pork was raised in outside lots or on pasture systems. Commercial pork production today generally relies on large warehouse-like buildings or barns that house sows and pigs in stalls or pens.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Despite low prices for many commodities, the overall projected totals for Mississippi’s crop values should top $7 billion for the third straight year and essentially match the record set in 2013.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said his preliminary estimate of 2014’s agricultural production values, excluding government payments, is over $7.7 billion.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cattle and hog prices are soaring to record highs, causing producers to debate whether to sell their valuable animals or expand their herd sizes for the future.
“It’s hard not to sell when prices are this good and the pull of the feedlot is so strong,” said John Michael Riley, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
As producers continue to reduce herd sizes nationally, prices should remain strong, but the result will be fewer animals available to sell in the future.