By Lisa R. Tager, Ph.D. MarSyt, Inc.
Dairy Nutrition Technical Specialist
As we start planting our crops this year, our 2015 planting and growing season seems a distant memory. However, now that 2015 corn is being fed out, many of us are starkly reminded of the unpredictable weather patterns that caused mold and mycotoxins in crops last year.
Unfortunately, once the molds and mycotoxins have formed on a corn plant, there is no way to eliminate them. However, understanding how to counter a mycotoxin challenge and ease your cows through a difficult time can help producers avoid a trying and costly period.
It is commonly known that feeding your dairy cows feed that is contaminated with mycotoxins will cause problems with intake, production, health and immunity, and of greatest consequence, reproduction. While the rumen and liver of the dairy cow are well equipped to handle some levels of mycotoxins, the levels we are seeing in feed this year in the Northeast is greater than cows can biologically handle. Even the best feed managers are experiencing problems with mycotoxins, and producers are reporting that cows have dull eyes, rough coats, inconsistent manure and generally are not feeling well. While production may not be declining in some high producing herds, many producers are seeing the effects of mycotoxins in their reproduction programs. High Zearalenone levels are causing inconsistent cycling, and in extreme cases, cows can go anestrous. While mycotoxins are always a challenge, we are experiencing a worst-‐case scenario this year in the Northeast with some of the highest levels of reported mycotoxins in years.
Often, a mycotoxin challenge goes unnoticed at first. After a few days, producers may notice a drop in intake or production. The most common first sign that you may have a challenge is rough coat and dull eyes. However, in many circumstances here in the Northeast, many producers are experiencing no loss off production or intake. So, they don’t notice there is a challenge until it starts affecting reproduction, a hard problem to fix quickly. One central New York producer got in touch with us just in time earlier this year when he noticed that his highest producing cows had dull eyes, rough coats, and looked like they just didn’t feel well. He noted inconsistent manure and reduced cud chewing as well. It also happened that at the time, his Ovsynch cows were struggling at only 38% and he felt that repro across the herd was sliding and inconsistent, but he was unaware that these challenges might be linked. After an extensive mycotoxin screening using our Risk Management Assessment Program, we were able to pinpoint the feeds in the TMR that were causing the problem. Together with the producer and nutritionist, we developed a new feeding plan to dilute the level of toxins being fed to specific groups, and added a liver health supplement called Novin® S to assist the liver and gut in detoxifying and ameliorating the remaining mycotoxin challenge. After just a few days, cows perked up, were lying down chewing their cuds, and their rough coats and dull eyes improved.
In five days, manure returned to normal as well. Unfortunately, there is no effective method for improving reproduction immediately. However, two months after making the suggested management changes, Ovsynch cows on this farm have recovered to over 50%. Waiting for reproduction to improve was the most difficult part to be patient about, but the producer is happy with the results after two months on Novin® S.
There is no “silver bullet” or single method that can help control a mycotoxin challenge. Good feed management will always be the best insurance, but climate and growing conditions can always thwart even the best efforts. Providing nutrition-‐based supplementation can effectively alleviate and guard against mycotoxins. Adding Novin® S to a diet helps to manage mycotoxins by using a combined, multi-‐ingredient approach ensuring that all areas of a mycotoxin problem are being addressed. Novin® S contains a well-‐researched formulation of plant-‐based ingredients that have proven liver protective qualities as well as polyphenols to help counteract oxidative stress not only from mycotoxins, but also the stress of high production. Additionally, Novin® S contains fermentation extracts that help maintain immune and rumen function, cellulolytic activity, and proper rumen protozoal numbers to keep rumen performance steady as well as maintaining the ability to fight some of the mycotoxin challenge naturally. Lastly, clays and polymers are added as a flow agent to provide a complete package. When you add Novin® S to a diet, you are providing your cows with insurance against a mycotoxin challenge by supporting rumen, liver, renal, immune, and reproductive health.