SPONSORED: Often referred to in the past as "hidden killers," mycotoxins represent a major challenge for producers. After more than 30 years of evidence and scientific research, we can now link data on performance loss with economic factors. Not only can we get a behind-the-scenes understanding of mycotoxins’ effects on pigs, we can now get estimates on the return of implementing a preventative program.
Mycotoxicosis can impact pigs during all stages of production, including breeding. Exposure to these mycotoxins can occur as either a large single dose (acute) or in smaller quantities over time (chronic), and their effects can be extensive:
- Changes to feeding behavior
- Alterations to intestinal structure and function
- Damage to internal organs
- Disruption of endocrine system signaling and modification of the immune system
- Mycotoxins that suppress immune functions can lead to decreased resistance to disease, reoccurrence of chronic infections or poor efficacy of vaccination programs even when at chronic lower levels (Oswald et al., 2003; Taranu et al, 2003).
These challenges vary based on the concentration of mycotoxins, as well as the age and current health status of the pig. Another concern is the compounding effects that the synergy of multiple mycotoxins can have. Multiple mycotoxins can have greater negative effect in pig performance and health because of this (Swamy, 2012). Because of synergistic effect, a preventative program is strongly suggested.
Despite this, preventative and precautionary measures have often seemed challenging to producers. Drying grain to less than 14% moisture, avoiding feed ingredients and bedding that are suspect for contamination, the cost of proper storage and stock control, and the ongoing cleaning of bins and hoppers can all be beneficial but often seem difficult to practically maintain.
To help illustrate performance improvement based on these precautionary measures, John Gadd of International Pig Management Consultancy began collecting before-and-after figures from his clients’ performance records and also included in-feed absorbent results when the products emerged in the 1990s.
Gadd organized his data from 74 client performance record examinations (1995-2013) in terms of paybacks, which he termed “REOs”, or Return on Extra Outlay. Although the REO is listed in Euros, the observations are applicable universally.
What were the in-feed results?
- Young growing pigs: On farms where additives were used, there was an REO of 16:1. These farms especially benefited from early in-feed protection at slaughter weight. In Gadd’s experience, a strong early protection resulted in at least three times the expected slaughter weight.
- Post-nursery growing/finishing pigs: Gadd’s own work was limited in this area, but he notes that information from other sources suggests benefits of using in-feed absorbents from 35 to 107 kg to have REOs between 5 and 7:1.
- Gilts: The cost of delayed entry into the herd and a lower conception rate per gilt lead to a rise in cost of production (COP) for the whole herd. Though the cost of year-round in-feed mycotoxin deterrence saw a 2.3% rise in whole-herd production cost, the REO was 3.2:1.
- Multiparous sows: Total production costs from a variety of mycotoxin-originating disorders rose between 30 to 74% over an average period of four months, making the penalty in Europe as much as a one-third increase in the production cost per sow, bringing the REO in the range of 5.8:1 to 14.4:1.
The impact on profitability can be calculated through the use of the Risk Equivalent Quantity (REQ), a number developed by the Alltech 37+Ò mycotoxin analysis that represents the calculated cumulative effect of multiple mycotoxins on animal performance. Based on the data from 16 published articles (1,503 pigs), nursery pigs may have an average estimated loss of gain by 40.3 g/day and a three point increase in FCR during a mycotoxin challenge with an REQ of 100 (toxicity equivalency to 100 ppb Aflatoxin B1). This loss in gain equates to a total decrease of 1.6 kg/pig over a 40-day nursery period, which may result in an additional 3.2 days required to reach the same market weight as non-challenged pigs.
Additional data from 15 published trials (1,050 pigs) indicates growing and finishing pigs may have estimated loss of gain by 38.7 g/day and a three point increase in FCR during a mycotoxin challenge with an REQ of 100. This loss in gain equates to a total decrease of 5.4 kg/pig over a 140-day period, which may result in a carcass drag of 4.0 kg and as much as an extra seven days required for these pigs to reach the same market weight as non-challenged pigs. These effects can impact profitability, equating to an estimated loss of €2.60/carcass.
As mycotoxin challenges increase, so do the costs to the producer. Precautionary management methods cost an average of 9.5% extra outlay on COP. However, in-feed precautions raised production costs only 2-3%. Both background and in-feed measures together provided REOs between 1.9:1 and 7.8:1. Gadd’s research suggests that it does pay to carry out all the management prevention measures available, particularly use of an in-feed absorbent. To ensure profitability and outweigh the costly risk of mycotoxin contamination, it is crucial to invest in a proactive approach.