Farmers are being encouraged to start managing the mycotoxin risk in maize crops at planting, in order to reduce feed waste further down the line.
Andrew Linscott, ruminant manager at Alltech, explains that maize provides a great homegrown feed source for ruminants, as it is high in energy and starch.
“However, maize is highly susceptible to developing field-borne mycotoxins, such as Fusarium fungal diseases,” he says.
“The development of Fusarium moulds at this stage will have a negative impact on the rest of the feed process, contributing to physical waste during storage and feeding out, as well as leading to inefficiencies within the rumen.”
For example, if Fusarium moulds are present when maize is harvested and ensiled, they can increase the breakdown of the crop, leading to feed shrinkage.
“Preliminary results from the Alltech Feed Waste Reduction Initiative indicate that on average, up to 25 percent of silage dry matter is lost in the clamp,” explains Mr Linscott.
“While a proper sealing and compaction technique during the ensiling process will help prevent storage mycotoxins developing, it’s also important to avoid transporting mycotoxins from the field into the clamp.”
In addition, Mr Linscott says increased feed refusals due to reduced ration palatability, and the impact of mycotoxin contamination on rumen function as well as overall cow health, are major drivers of feed waste.
“Even low-level mycotoxin contamination can upset the rumen and reduce feed conversion efficiency (FCE). Where contamination is higher, the effect on cow health can be much more serious and even result in all feed inputs being used for maintenance instead of production. This results in a high level of feed wastage.”
Mr Linscott highlights that on average, feed waste is costing producers as much as £1 for every £3 spent. It is therefore critical that a holistic approach is taken to tackling the key sources of feed waste, which includes mycotoxin producing moulds and fungi.
“A biostimulant programme is recommended to help plants defend themselves more effectively and increase yields,” he explains.
In a maize trial across 21 farms in the Midlands, a 12 percent yield increase was seen when the biostimulants Soil-Set Aid, and Impro-Grain were used in collaboration.
“Soil-Set Aid assists with the breakdown of organic matter by stimulating and increasing beneficial microbes in the soil.
“It also increases nutrient availability and uptake, enhancing root growth and therefore allowing good, strong establishment,” says Mr Linscott.
Following a soil biostimulant with a foliar biostimulant, such as Impro-Grain, will help ensure the plant continues to thrive and maximise the conversion of light energy into starch energy.
“Impro-Grain helps with photosynthesis, cell replication and mineral uptake. This supports plant vigour and resistance in stressful situations.”