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Mycotoxins harm swine health and reproductive performance

Quick facts

Some fungi molds in grain can produce harmful compounds called mycotoxins. Pigs consuming mycotoxins above their tolerance level will face health and reproductive problems. Submitting samples of contaminated feeds to the laboratory can help you manage your feeding practices and prevent mycotoxin toxicity in your pigs.

What are mycotoxins? 

Certain molds of fungi in grain produce compounds (mycotoxins) that may be harmful to humans or animals. Fungal growth with mycotoxin production can occur during:

  • Plant growth
  • Maturity
  • Harvesting
  • Storage
  • Processing of grains

Several factors influence fungal growth with mycotoxins.

  • Moisture level
  • Temperature
  • Availability of oxygen

Damaged, immature, drought stricken, or stressed grain is more prone to mold. Molds may reduce the nutrient content and quality of the grain, but the harmful effects of mycotoxins are most concerning.

Scientists have identified 300 to 400 mycotoxins to date. Only a few mycotoxins have shown to cause significant harm to health and performance in pigs fed contaminated plant-based feedstuffs. Harmful mycotoxins include:

  • Deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin)
  • Zearalenone
  • Fumonisin
  • Ochratoxin
  • Ergot
  • T-2 toxin

Mycotoxins aren’t present in all moldy grains. The following molds were found to be the most harmful to swine.

  • Aspergillus
  • Penicillium
  • Claviceps
  • Fusarium fungi

Mark Whitney, former Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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