Sampling for spring mycotoxins - what can you do?

While many associate mycotoxin risk with harvest and the fall season, mycotoxins can be a dangerous factor year-round.

Last fall presented many challenging weather conditions causing many crops being put up either wet or frozen. While many associate mycotoxin risk with harvest and the fall season, mycotoxins can be a dangerous factor year-round.

As weather begins to warm up, mold and mycotoxin risks can increase as well. Forages that were put up at excessive moisture or when fermentation was incomplete will be more susceptible to these risks.

Given these factors, it is especially important to take samples for mold and mycotoxin contamination this year; but what can producers do when forage and nutrition specialists aren’t able to visit the farm and take samples?

Below are warning signs that your forage may be at risk and our recommendations for proper sampling of your forage when you aren’t able to have visitors to your operation.

Practical Forage Observations

  • Are you taking less than 6 inches off the face of the bunk?
  • Is your forage heating 5-10° above the ambient temperature it was put up at?
  • Do you have visible mold?
  • Is there an alcohol odor coming from your forage?
  • Is your silage looking off-colored (gray, brown, or golden)?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these questions, we highly recommend you send samples in for analysis.

Sampling Recommendations

  • Be sure to follow proper safety protocol while collecting samples.
  • Take samples across the face of the bunk (top, front, sides, bottom), gathering material from the different locations to equal about a five-gallon bucket when combined.
  • Mix up your samples and then take sub-samples to compose roughly a gallon bag of sample.
  • If there is spoilage in one area, you can take a separate concentrated sample from that area to submit individually to determine what specific mold or mycotoxin you are dealing with.
  • When taking samples, take all samples at the same time of day and ship to the lab as soon as possible to get the most accurate results.
  • If you have forage sample bags from your nutritionist, put enough silage into the bag until you reach the “fill line”. If you don’t have a bag from your nutritionist a store-bought, gallon-sized bag will work. Fill the entire bag with silage.

Best Management Practices

  1. Apply a blend of organic acids to combat any additional mold or yeast growth.
  2. Feed suspect grain before the temperature of stored grain rises in the spring, when mold growth may start, or as soon as possible to limit further mold development.
  3. Remove or reduce the amount of contaminated feed in the diet.
  4. Stressed animals and young stock are most at risk; limit exposure of these animals to suspect feeds.
  5. Carefully observe animals that are getting suspect feed and dilute as much as possible.