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Avoiding Mold In Feed Corn

This year’s weather was too wet in some areas and too dry in others. Both extremes increase the risk of feed corn becoming moldy, which increases the risk of mycotoxin formation. This causes health problems in animals that ingest it. High levels of toxin can interfere with the immune system, cause liver damage, and affect hormonal changes. 

Mike Hutjens is a retired dairy specialist at the University of Illinois. He says there are four common mycotoxins found in corn.

"If you have a lot of wet conditions and cool, then vomitoxin, or D-O-N – don they call it – can come into play.  Another one in that category would be what they call the T-2 toxins, and then the third one would be zearalenone," says Hutjens. " Now aflatoxin is basically drought-stressed corn, hot conditions, and usually the corn may have a small amount of insect damage or challenge to it."

Corn should be dried to less than 15% moisture, and properly cooled and stored to resist mold and mycotoxins. The corn should look wholesome, without patches of white or black molds. You could have the feed tested by a lab, but tests are expensive and results can vary.

If you're not sure about the condition of the feed, keep an eye on your animals after they've eaten it.

"Watch two things," he says. "Watch dry matter intake, and then watch of any fecal changes in the animal and that may give you a pretty good early warning then that the animal's telling you that's something is not digesting properly in that corn."

One strategy is to dilute it with clean corn and to only allow healthy, well-conditioned animals access to it. Adding a mycotoxin binder made from yeast or clay might prevent the toxin from being absorbed.

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