Poultry producers frequently ask: What is the real impact of mycotoxins on the broiler’s productivity? What sounds like an easy question is, in the case of mycotoxins, unfortunately not so easy to answer.
The negative impacts of mycotoxins in poultry can be far-reaching, decreasing gastrointestinal integrity, immunity and performance in broilers and resulting in economic losses. Given the high rates of mycotoxin in poultry feed, a mycotoxin risk management strategy is needed to protect fattening animals in all phases in order to reduce the challenges in the animal and ensure profitability of production.
Three key considerations can help you evaluate the impact of mycotoxins on your broilers’ productivity:
Mycotoxins are frequently found in poultry feed. According to the DSM World Mycotoxin Survey, more than 8,000 samples of finished poultry feed tested positive for mycotoxins in the last five years (2016 – 2020). A closer analysis of this data shows that 92% of these samples are contaminated with more than one mycotoxin, it can be founded as much as 40 to 50 mycotoxins in the same sample. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to interpret the whole picture and not just look at the effects of a single mycotoxin if you need to evaluate the risk in a broiler production (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Mycotoxin presence in poultry finished feed (2016 -2020). A) Co-occurrence of mycotoxins. B) Mycotoxin occurrence and risk for broiler: % of positive samples for the respective mycotoxin are shown in the bars while maximum contamination found is expressed inside the broiler image (ppb). The colours express the risk level for broilers, red being high risk and orange indicating moderate risk. (Source: DSM World Mycotoxin Survey)
Testing the finished feed and/or their ingredients helps to evaluate the risk for the animal’s health. The frequent presence of mycotoxins triggers the immune system of the animals, consequently reducing the performance of the flocks, what can be translated as a loss of profit for the poultry producers.
Visible clinical signs in poultry such as fatty liver, beak erosions or cystic oviduct are not always clearly identifiable in broilers under field conditions, for two main reasons: First, the short life cycle of broilers means that problems may lurk within the animal but not have time to manifest outwardly. Second, the combined effects of more than one mycotoxin make the diagnosis of a mycotoxicosis more difficult. However, the major impacts of mycotoxins on immunity, inflammation, oxidation and gut health in poultry husbandry has been clearly proven in scientific trials.
Special attention should be paid to:
Collectively, these effects can compromise several intestinal functions, mainly reducing the absorption surface for nutrients and consequently harming digestion. Moreover, by increasing the permeability of the intestinal barrier, the entrance for pathogens, anti-nutritional factors and other toxins into circulation is facilitated. (Figure 2).
Figure 2. The effect of DON, nivalenol, fumonisin B1 (FB1), T-2 toxin and zearalenone (ZEN) on the intestinal epithelium. They alter the different intestinal defense mechanisms including epithelial integrity, cell proliferation, mucus layer, immunoglobulins (Ig), and cytokine production. (Source: Antonissen et al., 2014)
Therefore, preventing the establishment of a ‘leaky gut’ can be correlated with the reduction of economic losses and enhancement of food security in the poultry industry.
Performance is still considered one of the most important parameters in evaluating the success of the poultry production. Through this perspective, it is proven that mycotoxins can negatively impact zootechnical parameters in a broiler farm. A data compilation of scientific trials has shown that the presence of mycotoxins in poultry diets significantly reduced (P < 0.05) feed intake by 12% and body weight gain by 14%, resulting in an impaired feed conversion ratio of 7% when compared with non-contaminated groups (Andretta et al, 2011). This is mainly attributed to a diminished feed intake resulting in a lower protein deposition efficiency.
Furthermore, preliminary results from a cooperation project with the University of Ghent (Antonissen et al., 2018) show a synergistic negative effect between a dysbiosis challenged diet and additional DON (5 mg/kg) and fumonisins (20 mg/kg) on broilers’ performance. Interestingly, this data also evidence that the decreased performance even is more evident in the final phase, reinforcing the impact of mycotoxins in the growth parameters in the last period of broiler’s life cycle (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Performance parameters in day 39 of broiler chickens fed either a negative control, dysbiosis control, deoxynivalenol contaminated dysbiosis or a fumonisin contaminated dysbiosis diet. Bars represent means for the 7 replicates (pens) per treatment ± SD. Within the same period, bars with different letters (a-b) differ significantly (P ≤ 0.05). (Source: Antonissen et al., 2018)
An example of a realistic outcome also comes from recent data of Kolawole et al. (2020). In his long-term evaluation (18 successive trials) of a commercial farm, it was shown that natural contamination with levels below the EU recommendations for mycotoxins has a significant impact of 2.5 points in FCR (Figure 4), confirming the synergistic effects of the mycotoxins (fumonisins, zearalenone, DON and DAS) and the decreased broiler performance in commercial conditions.
The negative impacts of mycotoxins can be far-reaching, decreasing gastrointestinal integrity, immunity and performance in broilers and resulting in economic losses. Due to the frequent occurrence of mycotoxins in poultry feed, a mycotoxin risk management strategy is needed to protect fattening animals in all phases in order to reduce the challenges in the animal and ensure profitability of production.
Andretta, I., Kipper, M., Lehnen, C. R., Hauschild, L., Vale, M. M., & Lovatto, P. A. (2011). Meta-analytical study of productive and nutritional interactions of mycotoxins in broilers. Poultry Science, 90(9), 1934-1940.
Antonissen, G., Croubels, S., Pasmans, F., Ducatelle, R., Haesebrouck, F., Timbermont, L., ... & Delezie, E. (2012). The mycotoxin deoxynivalenol predisposes for the development of necrotic enteritis in broilers. In 1st ihsig International symposium (IHSIG 2012): Intestinal health management in tomorrow's poultry industry. Intestinal Health Scientific Interest Group (ihsig).
Antonissen, G., Martel, A., Pasmans, F., Ducatelle, R., Verbrugghe, E., Vandenbroucke, V., ... & Croubels, S. (2014). The impact of Fusarium mycotoxins on human and animal host susceptibility to infectious diseases. Toxins, 6(2), 430-452.
Antonissen, G., Croubels, S., Pasmans, F., Ducatelle, R., Eeckhaut, V., Devreese, M., ... & Antlinger, B. (2015). Fumonisins affect the intestinal microbial homeostasis in broiler chickens, predisposing to necrotic enteritis. Veterinary Research, 46(1), 98.
Antonissen, G, Van Immerseel F., and Croubels S. (2018). Toward an integrative understanding
of the impact of mycotoxins on gut health. World Nutrition Forum. October 3rd, 2018. Cape Town, South Africa.
Grenier, B., & Applegate, T. J. (2013). Modulation of intestinal functions following mycotoxin ingestion: Meta-analysis of published experiments in animals. Toxins, 5(2), 396-430.
Hanif, N. Q., & Muhammad, G. (2015). Immunotoxicity of ochratoxin A and role of Trichosporon mycotoxinivorans on the humoral response to infectious viral disease vaccines in broilers. Pakistan Journal of Zoology, 47(6).
Kamalavenkatesh, P., Vairamuthu, S., Balachandran, C., & Manohar, B. M. (2005). Immunopathological effect of the mycotoxins cyclopiazonic acid and T-2 toxin on broiler chicken. Mycopathologia, 159(2), 273-279.
Kolawole, O., Graham, A., Donaldson, C., Owens, B., Abia, W. A., Meneely, J., Alcorn, M. J., Connolly. L. & Elliott, C. T. (2020). Low Doses of Mycotoxin Mixtures below EU Regulatory Limits Can Negatively Affect the Performance of Broiler Chickens: A Longitudinal Study. Toxins, 12(7), 433.
Yunus, A. W., Ghareeb, K., Twaruzek, M., Grajewski, J., & Böhm, J. (2012). Deoxynivalenol as a contaminant of broiler feed: effects on bird performance and response to common vaccines. Poultry science, 91(4), 844-851.
22 October 2020
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