Some molds or fungi growing on grains and forages may produce toxins called mycotoxins. They are poisonous, mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic when consumed by humans or livestock. Feeds that contain mycotoxins reduce animal productivity and may even cause death. Mycotoxins are usually associated with temperate regions. These molds can propagate in agricultural plants whenever environmental conditions are favorable.
Such conditions include:
- cool damp summers
- late wet harvests
- poor storage after harvest (even at moisture levels as low as 16%)
If mold growth has occurred, it is likely that one or more of the mycotoxins have been produced. Mycotoxins may remain in food and feed long after the fungus that produced them has died. Therefore, toxins can be present at potentially dangerous levels in products that are not visibly moldy or do not show positive results on a mold count of the material. It is important to test for mycotoxins as a means of maintaining high quality feed and grain as well as protecting your livestock investment.