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Stackyard News Oct 06

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Widespread Smut in Maize Heightens Mycotoxins Risk at Feed Out

Livestock farmers feeding forage maize this autumn should be wary of an increased mycotoxins risk if crops were affected by the fungal disease smut (Ustilago maydis) at any stage during the growing season.

maize harvest

So says Alltech UK’s ruminant technical manager David Wilde, who warns that hot and dry summer conditions in many parts of the country have created ideal conditions for smut and that drought-stressed maize will have been more susceptible to this as well as other plant diseases.

“Smut has been reported widely in forage maize this year and is responsible for a lot of stunted crops,” he says, “but a reduction in dry matter yield is only part of the problem.

“The disease pressure caused by smut will leave plants more susceptible to moulds, and it is these that can produce the mycotoxins that may present a hidden threat at feed out.

“Smut itself may cause diarrhoea in cows, so if it is known to be in the silage it is vital to ensure plenty of effective fibre is included in the ration to help with rumen function and mitigate the effects. Mycotoxins, however, can be responsible for a wide variety of symptoms including erratic production, reduced fertility, general lethargy and swollen hocks.

“If farmers suspect a mycotoxins problem, they should immediately withdraw or at least dilute the potentially contaminated feed and at the same time consult their veterinary surgeon.”

Alltech UK has recently published a new booklet providing information on the origins, effects and treatment of mycotoxins in ruminant livestock. The guide provides a risk assessment section as well as advice and case studies. Copies are freely available from Alltech by calling 01780 764512.

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