Research

Mycotoxin contamination: assessment of risk in livestock systems

Abstract

We are working on this project with Fera, Queens University Belfast, RAFT Solutions Ltd and other departments at Harper Adams University to conduct a review to assess the risk to livestock systems from mycotoxins. The overall aims of the review are to: determine the severity of the problem in the UK; highlight research gaps; formulate mitigation advice for farmers; and collate evidence for regulatory processes.

Description

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by a range of moulds. They occur in the field during the growth of crops, for example on cereals and grass, as well as in storage on products such as animal feed and animal bedding straw. Mycotoxins at high concentrations can have a direct impact on animal health and welfare but such conditions are rarely seen in the UK.  However, at lower concentrations mycotoxins can impact on livestock performance for example, decreased litter weights and reduced feed conversion rates, all of which have a direct effect on farm profitability.

We are conducting a 3-stage review to assess the risk to livestock systems from mycotoxins:

Stage 1: Review the analytical testing methods for mycotoxins in animal products, feed, forage straw and live animals, and consider issues such as availability of tests (screening and confirmatory); their cost and reliability and availability of diagnostic tests for animals. 

Stage 2: Review the potential effects of mycotoxins for different species, indicators for chronic and acute exposure and the possible effects of interactions of multiple mycotoxins. 

Stage 3: Review prevention strategies, including the use of risk management practices to cover all possible exposure routes, and the use of commercial ‘mycotoxin binders’.  Evidence of how effective they are and possible pros and cons of their use will also be reviewed.

The review will determine the severity of the mycotoxin problem in the UK, highlight research gaps and collect evidence that can be used for regulatory purposes.  Recommendations and advice for farmers will also be developed. 

Funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Anthony Millington for his work on this project.

This project forms part of the work carried out by the Centre for Evidence-Based Agriculture at Harper Adams University.

Funding Body

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

Lead Organisation

Fera

Partners

Harper Adams University, Queens University Belfast and RAFT Solutions Ltd

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