Mycotoxins and beef cattle

Health: News Roundup from the January 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Ergot (seen at right) is a common cause of mycotoxin in grains.

The Beef Cattle Research Council recently posted an article on mycotoxins and how they affect beef cattle.

Mycotoxins are produced by certain types of fungi. Fusarium and ergot are two of the most common causes. Mycotoxins can be found in green pasture, cereal swaths, standing corn for winter grazing, cured and ensiled grass, cereal forages and commercial feeds. Straw, distillers grains, grain screenings and oilseed meals can also contain mycotoxins.

Reduced feed consumption is one symptom of mycotoxins poisoning in beef cattle. Feed reduction of more than 30 per cent calls for investigation. Other symptoms include:

  • Failure to thrive/reduction in growth or performance.
  • Immune suppression (animal is often sick).
  • Does not respond to antibiotics.
  • Convulsions, muscle spasms, temporary paralysis.
  • Gangrene or lameness, especially in the animal’s ears, tail and feet.
  • Fever or intermittent bloody diarrhea.
  • Blisters, reddening or ulcers in the mouth.
  • Abortion and premature births, or reduced lactation.
  • Fertility issues such as weak testicular development and low sperm count in bulls.

The Beef Cattle Research Council advises producers to avoid feeding mouldy feed and consider feed testing, especially when risk factors are high. There’s no consensus on safe mycotoxin levels in beef feed.

For more information on mycotoxins and beef cattle, visit the Beef Cattle Research Council website.

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