Take precautions when feeding DON-contaminated wheat to pigs

Deoxynivalenol-contaminated wheat can be added to pigs’ diets if blended with an adequate mix of “clean” grain.

July 19, 2016

2 Min Read
Take precautions when feeding DON-contaminated wheat to pigs
Getty Images/Sean Gallup

Based on a recent report by Emmanuel Byamukama, Differentiating Between Wheat Head Diseases and Disorders, it appears that conditions are right for fusarium head blight (or scab) growth in South Dakota, which leads to the production of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat.

While DON-contaminated grains can cause problems for livestock, pork producers have several options when dealing with this situation.

Swine feed considerations
DON does not cause health or reproductive problems in swine, but when the total concentration in the diet reaches above 1 ppm, pigs will eat less feed, or in some cases, simply vomit and then quit eating completely. That’s why DON is also commonly known as “vomitoxin”. This decrease in feed intake will result in slower gains but not death. There are some commercial products available that bind the mycotoxin aflatoxin, but they are not effective in completely alleviating the effects of DON.

Therefore, if a producer wants to use DON-contaminated grain, they’ll need to blend it with “clean” grain to keep those levels in the complete feed below 1 ppm. For example, if the wheat contains 2 ppm DON and it is included in the diet at 25% of the total ration, the final diet should only contain 0.5 ppm DON if the other ingredients are clean. At this level, pig performance will not be affected.

To make this work, it is essential to know exactly how much mycotoxin is in the grain. Take samples from several different locations in the bin or load, and then send them to a certified lab for analysis. The more samples the better since mold growth varies throughout the field and also between fields, and more samples will give you a better idea of the actual levels of DON you’re dealing with. Your local Extension personnel can provide more information about proper sampling and where to send it.

Once you get the results back, blend the contaminated grain with clean grain and keep the diet’s mycotoxin level below 1 ppm. Also, strategically feed the moldy grain. Feed it to finishing pigs and cull sows, but keep it out of gestation, lactation and nursery diets. Also, producers can add mold inhibitors to prevent any more mold growth, but it won’t do anything to the mycotoxins that are already there.

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