September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
At the Rochester Forage Day on Feb. 12, Noah Litherland from the University of Minnesota Extension presented "Assessing Feed Quality - Molds, Mycotoxins and What to Do."
"This really came on the radar screen last year. There were a lot of producer calls and a lot of concerns, but we're not through the woods yet," Litherland said. "I'm concerned as things warm up it will be more of an exciting spring than we'd like."
Last year's late wet harvest increased the risk for forage problems and insufficient fermentation, he said. It's also been a widespread problem in the Midwest and across the country.
Concerns about mycotoxins and molds in distillers grains, high moisture corn, corn silage and corn that has been stored outside are still high and could lead to potential problems as temperatures rise.
"As spring thaw happens ... any wet product that wasn't sufficiently dried down in storage - beware," Litherland said.
Litherland mentioned that farmers should watch for five of the most common mycotoxins and their maximum levels in a cow's TMR: DON or vomitoxin should be less than six parts per million, Fumonisin should be less than 25 parts per million, Aflatoxin should be less than 20 parts per billion, T-2 toxin should be less than 100 parts per billion and Zearalenone should be less than 300 parts per billion.
"These are the concentrations where we get pretty nervous," he said.
But there are other signs that mycotoxins could be present, too. Litherland said to watch for loose stool, increased feed refusals, elevated SCC and reduced reproduction proficiency. He also said to take note of decreased dry matter intake of over two pounds per cow and increased rumen disorders such as displaced abomasums. Cows could also develop hormonal changes such as early udder development.
"It's always important to look at rumen fill and udder fill," Litherland said. "Those are the two things that show whether a cow is doing the things she does."
Although a concern for all animals, mycotoxins, molds, yeasts and poor feed quality is the hardest for transition cows and young calves right after weaning, Litherland said.
The best way to watch for these mycotoxins are to sample often and don't use poor quality feed.
"We're trying to get producers to clean out feed bunks daily and to take feed refusals and compost them. Just get rid of them," Litherland said.
As a guide to help producers, Litherland created a top 10 list of things to think about when feeding and storing forages.
1. Learn about mycotoxins and sample frequently. Evaluate bunkers and bags, and sample questionable feed. Take a minimum of five samples from different locations
2. Dry corn below the 12 to 14 percent moisture level. This will likely stop any more toxin development.
3. Carefully watch high moisture corn. Yeasts are always a problem and there is a risk for additional mold growth until pH of fermented corn drops.
4. Consider adding a grain inoculant. It speeds up fermentation and stabilizes wet corn.
5. Calves, dry cows and fresh cows are at high risk. Consider feeding lower quality feed to steers, which have a higher tolerance level.
6. Remove fines, damaged seeds and cracked corn kernels. This will help reduce the chances of additional toxins.
7. Distillers grains have the potential to have higher amounts of toxins. Monitor the commodity closely or consider using an alternative feed source.
8. Mold-damaged corn silage (from the late, wet harvest) could have toxins. Manage bunkers and bags properly, always defacing the correct amount.
9. The solution to pollution is dilution. Spread the risk by diversifying feed ingredients and including some high-quality ingredients.
10. Evaluate feeding practices. Clean bunks before feeding. Feed TMR immediately after mixing, get rid of refusals and sample questionable forages. Although the feed and forage conditions this year haven't been ideal, Litherland reminded producers about the positive aspect.
"We're so blessed to be in America and the Midwest where we even have a corn crop to talk about."
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