Managing Mycotoxins for Maximum Productivity of Beef and Dairy Cattle

In Brief

  • Certain mycotoxins like deoxynivalenol and other trichothecenes can limit feed intake by provoking feelings of satiety in animals
  • Mycotoxins are toxic to the rumen microbes before being toxic to the cow, leading to reduced microbial activity
  • Reduced microbial activity results in a lower feed digestibility, which results in less nutrients available for milk and meat production

Mycotoxins Reduce Dry Matter Intake

The intake of feed by an animal is closely tied to its ability to either increase body weight or yield milk. Greater food consumption generally leads to higher production. Maintaining an optimal Daily Dry Matter Intake (DMI) is crucial during transition periods like after calving in dairy cows to reduce metabolic issues and enhance reproductive performance or when switching beef animals into a feedlot regime. The trichothecenes family is notorious for its detrimental effects on mammalian appetite due to its ability to trigger the release of the satiety hormone known as CCK, which induces a sense of fullness and reduces feed intake.

DON and FUM combined led to DMI suppression and decreased weight gain

During a study conducted by Duringer (2021) at Oregon State University, the impact on feed intake was evident when comparing the diets of two different groups of beef steers, as seen in Figure 1. The intake of fattening steers started better for the control animals than those with contaminated diets. Still, quickly after the treatment, the mycotoxins suppressed the intake of the treated animals. The DMI reduction resulted immediately into a decreased weight gain compared to the control.

Figure 1: Average daily feed intake and average daily weight gain per week progression during the trial (* indicates a p<0.1, Durninger et al., 2020)

Mycotoxins are toxic to ruminal microbes before being toxic to the cow

Mycotoxins disrupt the typical functioning of the microbiota inhabiting the rumen, which is essential for achieving optimal fermentation and feed digestion. As their name implies, mycotoxins are toxic substances that apply an antimicrobial effect, inhibiting the normal activity of the rumen. In Figure 2, we can observe the influence of contamination by multiple mycotoxins on the presence of various microbial groups within the control group, which significantly dampens their activity. However, the supplementation of Mycofix® at two different dosages proved effective in protecting the microbes from the adverse effects of mycotoxins and, as a result, there was a restored microbial growth and activity when compared to the diet contaminated with mycotoxins.

Figure 2: Influence of contamination by multiple mycotoxins on the presence of various microbial groups (Kiyothong et al., 2012)

Having a higher microbial population in the rumen means they are degrading the feed better and reproducing more. These are positive outcomes in every way for the cow and ultimately for the farm profit. Before using any rumen-boosting additive, properly deactivating mycotoxins in the feed is essential for ensuring maximum nutrient utilization.

Recovered digestibility, more nutrients available for milk and meat

During a trial conducted by Gallo et al. (2021) with relatively low contamination of deoxynivalenol and fumonisins on high-yielding dairy cows, the digestibility of dry matter (DM) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) was greatly reduced. Thanks to the protective effect of Mycofix® the digestibility was recovered to a level even higher than control (p<0.05), which means that there is an advantage of deactivating mycotoxins even if contamination is very low (control levels).

Our Approach

While studying the adverse effects of mycotoxins on ruminal conditions and digestibility, we were able to demonstrate the protective efficacy of Mycofix®. Although numerous products in the market assert their ability to bind mycotoxins, the mycotoxins investigated in the recent scientific trials vary significantly and cannot be effectively addressed using a one-size-fits-all approach.


Mycotoxins have the potential to limit both beef and dairy productivity through various mechanisms: (1) diminished feed intake, suppressed microbial activity, and (2) reduced digestibility of DM (Dry Matter) and (3) NDF (Neutral Detergent Fiber). For ruminant experts seeking improved productivity, a key piece of advice is to first ascertain whether mycotoxins are constraining the achievement of your goals. Once mycotoxins have been addressed, consider implementing the right management, nutritional, and technological strategies to enhance performance.


  • Duringer, J.M., Roberts, H.L., Doupovec, B., Faas, J., Estill, C.T., Jiang, D. and Schatzmayr, D., 2020. Effects of deoxynivalenol and fumonisins fed in combination on beef cattle: health and performance indices. World Mycotoxin Journal, 13(4), pp.533-543.
  • Gallo, A., Minuti, A., Bani, P., Bertuzzi, T., Cappelli, F.P., Doupovec, B., Faas, J., Schatzmayr, D. and Trevisi, E., 2020. A mycotoxin-deactivating feed additive counteracts the adverse effects of regular levels of Fusarium mycotoxins in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science, 103(12), pp.11314-11331.
  • Kiyothong, K., Rowlinson, P., Wanapat, M. and Khampa, S., 2012. Effect of mycotoxin deactivator product supplementation on dairy cows. Animal production science, 52(9), pp.832-841.
  • Wu, W., Zhou, H.R., He, K., Pan, X., Sugita-Konishi, Y., Watanabe, M., Zhang, H. and Pestka, J.J., 2014. Role of cholecystokinin in anorexia induction following oral exposure to the 8-ketotrichothecenes deoxynivalenol, 15-acetyldeoxynivalenol, 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol, fusarenon X, and nivalenol. Toxicological Sciences, 138(2), pp.278-289.

Published on

17 October 2023


  • Ruminants
  • Dairy
  • Beef
  • Mycotoxins

About the Author

Ignacio Artavia - Global Marketing Manager for Ruminants, Animal Nutrition and Health at dsm-firmenich

Ignacio holds a bachelor's in Agriculture Sciences and a master's in Sustainable Animal Nutrition and Feeding. He´s the global Marketing Manager for Ruminants at dsm-firmenich, and has supported farmers, nutritionists, and health experts to overcome the negative impact of mycotoxins in different parts of the World.


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