Dispatch from the National Poultry Show

One of the hottest trending topics for the poultry industry in recent months is how to manage the sharply rising threat of mycotoxins, particularly in hard hit areas such as a much of Ontario, where experts have urged the poultry sector to be especially diligent about mycotoxins in 2019 as the carry-over risk and ongoing threat remain high.

Mycotoxin management ultimately requires a big picture viewpoint that considers the full progression of feed sources from the farm to the feed mill and through feed processing and storage, as well as the full spectrum from risk assessment to feed management. Mycotoxins expert Dr. Tony Wang, of Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.), offered insights and ideas April 3, 2019 at the National Poultry Show, in London, Ont., hosted by the Poultry Industry Council.

Wang serves as nutrition and technical service coordinator across the full spectrum of CBS Inc. Feed Science Platforms. He recently completed his PhD in Animal Science at the University of Saskatchewan with a strong research focus on feed and mycotoxin studies.

We have learned that mycotoxins are a ubiquitous problem, however a multi-faceted approach to mycotoxin management that includes effective testing and the right feed technology can act as a very effective insurance policy for your feeding program -- Dr. Tony Wang

Here are 5 key take-home messages from Wang's presentation, which provide a unique, science-informed look inside the complex matrix of mycotoxins management.

1. Take Action

Feed quality challenges fluctuate year to year. As an industry our awareness and understanding of the rising threat of mycotoxins and other grain contaminant issues is increasing every year. These threats at any level can seriously undermine feed integrity and animal impacts.

"The threat of mycotoxin contamination should be on the radar of every feed producer and livestock operation," says Wang. "Certainly in regions such as Ontario that have recently experienced a very high risk, awareness is now much higher and that gives us the opportunity to make major improvements in our approach to this issue."

In poultry production, any level can pose a serious threat to feed integrity, with costly animal effects impacting everything from weight gain and feed efficiency to reproductive performance, he says. At high levels the outcomes can include dramatic losses in performance, increased health costs and the potential condemnation of feed or animal products.

However, with effective control programs poultry operations can protect their feed and their birds, supporting optimal results in each of these areas.

2. Recognize every year as important

Traditionally mycotoxins have represented a 'quiet issue' too often overlooked or discounted. However the high-risk conditions in recent months have contributed to a reality check. There is much greater awareness that even small incidence of contaminants can dramatically undercut feed value, resulting in reduced performance and profitability.

While it’s critical to safeguard feed and protect animals during high risk years, industry is realizing with these issues becoming more common that taking action is good practice every year.

"We have the tools now -- we just need to use them," says Wang. "Having feed samples tested regularly and taking advantage of the latest feed technology solutions are two big components. Testing has improved -- it is much more robust and practical. Feed technology solutions have also improved, driven by new science-based advances.

"These two components can serve as the anchors of a dynamic, multi-target approach to minimize the risks."

3. Apply a dynamic, multi-target approach

Pre-harvest considerations may include crop rotation/ variety selection; fungicides application; seed cleaning/ seed treatment, increased seeding rate, staggered planting dates; and irrigation management.

Post-harvest considerations may include seed cleaning, drying and proper storage condition; and correct sampling/ analysis of mycotoxin levels which includes taking representative samples from multiple locations and utilizing options such as the "classical" method of chromatography-based technology or "rapid detection" via new options for antibody-based detection.

A number of mitigation options are also available at the feed processing level.

Interventions using feed technology should be applied strategically based on proper sample collection and analysis. A number of high-quality options exist to support clean feed before consumption by the animal.

Further options exist to protect the animal from possible contaminants that are consumed. "When looking at the possible options for animal protection, a key focus is activity in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), which is both the site of nutrient absorptions and a major immune organ with a crucial role in maximizing performance," says Wang. "The GIT represents the first site of exposure to mycotoxins or feed-borne pathogens."

Today's top feed technology options active within the GIT serve a "Protect. Bind. Repair." role, he says. An illustration of this three-step approach is available in this video.

4. Move to greater precision in mitigation strategies

Common sources of contaminants include pathogens such as fusarium, fungi such as ergot and other moisture-related issues such as mold, says Wang. A number of factors influence the effects of mycotoxins exposure, he says. For example: strain, age & sex; timing & duration; health status; mixture of mycotoxins; environmental / rearing condition; nutrient status and mycotoxin concentration.

Research is helping to improve the understanding of these factors and how this knowledge can be used to inform improved management strategies. For example, recent studies led by Wang himself have examined the challenge of fusarium-related mycotoxins in poultry feed, uncovering ground-breaking knowledge on timeframes when impacts are more pronounced and when targeted solutions can have the greatest impact.

5. Learn from the latest research

"New knowledge from science is one of the keys to progress," says Wang. "For example, through the studies of fusarium-related mycotoxins we are gaining a better understanding of how various factors influence dietary thresholds for DON-induced negative effects on poultry. This will help us direct potential methods to mitigate adverse effects to achieve the same growth performance in a cost-efficient manner, including under antibiotic-free systems."

In two independent feeding trials – one a feed preference trial and one a feeding behaviour trial – Wang and colleagues uncovered fresh knowledge to drive this progress forward. Among key findings, they determined:

  • Broiler chickens are more sensitive to dietary Fusarium mycotoxins (primarily DON) during the later stage of growth.
  • Low to moderate concentrations of Fusarium mycotoxins (< 8 ppm DON) induces taste aversion, alter feeding behaviour, suppress feed intake and growth.
  • Fusarium mycotoxin-contaminated diets should be avoided in broiler production, especially during later stage of growth.

“We have come a long way both in our knowledge and the solutions available,” says Wang. “The more we continue to learn and innovate, the better we are positioned to win the battle with mycotoxins.”

Watch for more information from Wang and CBS Inc. on these study results and other key mycotoxins knowledge coming soon.