It’s no secret that the weather in the Midwest has been high in precipitation this year. All of this rain and extra moisture can cause feed and pastures to become moldy.
Storage units, bales, and land have all been flooded for months and it doesn’t take much for that water to ruin your livestock’s feed. According to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, contaminated feed can sicken a wide variety of animal species.
We all know that some types of mold can make us sick and the same mycotoxins that make us ill can sicken cattle, horses, and other livestock species. Not every mold is dangerous, but it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between mold types just by looking at them.
Just like humans, if an animal ingests food contaminated with mycotoxins, they can have kidney and liver damage, changes to estrogen levels, and neurological disorders.
Many variables can influence the impact of the contaminated feed. If an animal is susceptible to disease or has some other present issue, the moldy feed can interact with these preexisting conditions, amplifying problems such as reproduction, disease levels, and other issues.
Oklahoma State goes on to say that many livestock producers may not make a connection with a problem their cattle or horses are having with contaminated feed or hay. The issues may continue to grow, frustrating the producers while their animals are not performing as they are expected to.
Mold can occur anytime during the process of bailing hay. Whether it’s during or after the bailing process, the hay is usually warm and wet, a perfect home for mold growth. It only takes a humidity level of around 15% in the hay to allow mold to begin to grow. With the flooding, rains, and farmers working every hour of decent weather, it is easy to see how the hay won’t have a chance to properly dry out.
When people talk about mycotoxins, it usually centers around grain feed, but it can also be found in forage. Cattle, goats, sheep, and horses are in danger of ingesting contaminated hay. According to studies from Oklahoma State, in the past mycotoxin poisoning seemed to only endanger young foraging offspring, but now it is associated with abortions and cattle deaths “due to disruption phenylalanine metabolism.”
Some things to look for in animals that may have consumed contaminated feed includes poor performance and appearance, immunodeficiency, and other problems associated with malnutrition. If the livestock is already stressed by environmental conditions, they may experience suppressed immune systems due to the moldy hay.
Feed and forage that are in storage are in danger, but pastures can also be a scene for mold to start growing. As stated earlier, it is hard to visually determine if the feed is contaminated, so if you suspect that this is the case, you should send samples to a lab to be diagnosed.
If you can’t determine if the feed or forage is contaminated, you must monitor your livestock herds. Check their health for feed utilization, reproductive efficiency, weight gain, and overall healthiness.
Even if mycotoxins aren’t in the moldy feed, the mold itself can decrease the digestibility of the food, resulting in nutrient loss. This loss will need to be increased with a change in the diet or with nutritional supplements.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about nutrition for your livestock and cattle, contact Agri-King today. We will be happy to work with you to keep your animals healthy.