Mycotoxin Alert in Low-Cost Straw Diets

A recent study has reminded producers of the importance of dry harvesting and storage conditions for hays and straw. This study examined several large Alberta beef cow herds as well as one from Saskatchewan. The reason for this was that these herds had abnormally high rates of calf deformation as well as cow and calf deaths.

Researchers from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine determined one common feature of the herds was the extensive incorporation of straw in dry cow diets. By examining many other possibilities it was deduced that mycotoxins were to blame. These were present in the moldy straw. The cause was that it had either been baled wet, or stored poorly (wet conditions). This was the root of the birth defect and death loss problems.

This article is a reminder that low cost or low quality forages do require appropriate moisture control in harvesting and storage practices. This is essential to provide safe feed for winter diets. Molding must be controlled as dietary mold toxins can lead to reproductive failures, poor health, fetal deformations or even death. Straws, stalks and late cut hays are excellent low cost forages which can safely be used, but efforts must be made to bale them dry, and store them promptly to reduce molding. Spoilage should be discarded.

Residue materials such as corn stover and any of the straws have potential as components of low-cost rations, but these must be harvested and stored keeping in mind the fact that these ingredients should be part of a safe and toxin-reduced ration.

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