With early planted acreage and this summer’s extreme drought, grain moisture dropped quickly and harvest got underway early. One would think that scenario would temper the prospect of mycotoxins, but as harvest progressed concerns about mycotoxins in the limited feed-grain supply grew quickly.

Reports of growers dumping corn, buyers looking for unaffected corn supplies and even dairymen having to dump milk due to mycotoxin exposure started to surface.

Whether you’re feeding home-grown corn or buying it, you need to be aware of the prospects for contamination. Mark Whitney, University of Minnesota Extension swine specialist, emphasizes that, while mycotoxins are always a concern, this summer’s drought raised the bar. Whitney says the following mycotoxins are the ones to watch out for as they relate to your swine herd.

  • Aflatoxins — Produced under dry, hot growing conditions. Signs: anorexia; depression; reduced feed efficiency, milk production and appetite.
  • Zearalenone — Mimics the hormone estrogen, so it affects reproduction. Signs: swollen vulvas, shrunken testes, enlarged mammary glands, decreased fertility.
  • Deoxynivalenol (Vomitoxin) — Named because pigs that consume grain contaminated with it will vomit. Signs: feed refusal, vomiting.
  • T-2 Toxin — Produced during cool, wet weather. Signs: frequent defecation, vomiting, weight loss, feed refusal.
  • Fumonisin — Pigs are less susceptible to this than other animals. Signs: difficulty breathing, swelling and fluid in the lungs, blue ears.
  • Ochratoxin — Pigs are more susceptible to this than other animals. Signs: reduced growth and feed efficiency, liver and kidney damage.
  • Ergot — Reduces the size of blood vessels, restricting blood flow. Signs: convulsions, staggering, decreased blood supply to extremities, tail loss.