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Managing DON in swine feed

Managing DON in swine feed

High mycotoxin levels in corn could pose a hog health risk if contaminated grain enters feed supplies

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer

This fall, producers in Ontario and parts of the United States are faced with corn crops with high mycotoxin (DON) levels. The toxin can affect pig health if consumed.

In Ontario, for example, 25 per cent of samples from an October OMAFRA survey had DON levels greater that 5 parts per million (ppm), a recent Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN) article said.  

In addition, 15 per cent of samples had toxin levels between 2 and 5 ppm. Since the report’s release, OMAFRA staff have heard of toxin levels exceeding 5 ppm. As a result of high testing samples, elevators are rejecting loads, the article said.

Moulds and fungi produce these chemicals, called mycotoxins. More than 400 different types of mycotoxins exist, but only a minority affect swine health, the article said.

Producers should not feed swine mixed grain with DON levels over 1 ppm, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) guidelines say. So, if a diet contains 50 per cent contaminated corn, this grain cannot contain more than 2 ppm of DON, the article said.

To put this figure into perspective, the feed cannot have more than two contaminated grain kernels in a sample of one million non-contaminated kernels.

Producers who must use contaminated corn in their mixed rations have a few options:

  • keep it out of diets being fed to breeding swine and newly weaned pigs
  • blend contaminated grain with non-contaminated grain to reduce the final mycotoxin concentration
  • avoid exceeding 1 ppm of DON in mixed feed, as recommended by the CFIA
  • increase the diet’s nutrient density, as the toxin may reduce the pigs’ feed intake
  • if buying dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS), ask if elevator staff have done testing and about the use of toxin binders

If producers must handle contaminated grain, they should take precautions as the toxin can affect human health as well. Farmers should wear properly fitted dust masks or respirators, the OAHN article said.

More information on mycotoxin and the effect it can have on pigs can be found here.

Davy3 Photo/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo


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