Due to heavy rains and even flooding in some areas, this past harvest season was wetter than usual. Therefore, mold count in feed has been a popular analysis at Ward Laboratories, INC. Mold in feed can be an issue, even if it is not a toxin producing mold. Inhaled spores and consumed spores are identified as foreign invaders by the animal’s immune system. This can result in respiratory disease symptoms and increased susceptibility to infectious agents that would normally have little effect on the animal’s health.
Testing Mold Count in Feed
It is important to test feeds suspected to have a high mold count. Feeding risk begins at 1 – 2 million spores per gram. If your report shows any value below 1 million spores per gram:
- No action is necessary
- The producer may continue feeding livestock as usual
For results between 1 – 3 million spores per gram:
- Discount the energy value of the feed by 5%
- Observe animals closely for signs of illness, decreased productivity and lowered feed intake
When mold count levels are between 3-5 million spores per gram:
- Discount energy values by 5%
- Dilute moldy feed with other non-moldy feed sources
- Observe animals very closely for respiratory symptoms, decreased productivity and lowered feed intake
At above 5 million spores per gram DO NOT FEED. For more information on mold count interpretation see page 40 of the Ward Guide.
Steps to Prevent High Mold Count in Feed
- Harvest at proper moisture levels to avoid creating a warm moist environment for mold to thrive within the hay bale.
- Avoid damaging kernels or grain. Damage to these high energy portions of the plant presents opportunity for molds to grow rapidly.
- Clean and properly maintain equipment and storage areas which will come into contact with animal feed.
- Monitor stored feeds for moisture, heating and other forms of deterioration which may lead to mold formation.
- When making silage, follow proper procedures and best practices for ensiling to preserve that forage.
As mold in feed can result in profit losses through increased vet bills and decreased animal performance, it is important to know and understand when high mold counts are present in the feed and take the proper steps to prevent moldy feeds.