Learning to navigate in a sea of uncertainty
Oceania boasts a lot of dairy cows: 6 million in New Zealand and 1.6 million in Australia. Both countries have a strong reliance on feeding pasture, New Zealand more so than Australia. And both countries can experience extremes of weather, Australia more so than New Zealand.
Pastures are also prone to mould growth. Changeable weather (implicating uneven mould growth) and different grazing techniques used to try to manage chemical variation (implicating different decaying matter at the base of the pasture) leave room for varying populations of mould. In addition, many pasture species have endophyte fungi growing within them, either wildtype endophytes or intentionally infected for reasons of protecting the pasture from insect damage.
Both mould and endophytes can produce mycotoxins, and the pasture-based mycotoxins are often different to the types of mycotoxins typically found in feed concentrates.
To further confound the challenge, pasture grows so fast and rotational grazing is so quick that the grass virtually replaces itself regularly. The result is that absolute mycotoxin levels in pasture can be very hard to get a firm gauge on, and being so hard to pin down, it can be tempting to dismiss the significance of them.
Producers rely on several management and husbandry tools that they have at their disposal;
In a grazing situation, farmers receive many cow signals that they learn to interpret. It is very important that farmers sharpen their skills in identifying behaviour that implicates mycotoxins. In grazing ruminants, common symptoms of pasture based mycotoxins include nervous symptoms. Cows can become flighty, as normally docile animals become uncharacteristically on edge and easily spooked. Cows will tend to bunch together, particularly in corners of paddocks.
On close examination, the skin of cows may be seen to twitch, and cows will become very active, flicking their tails around. At an extreme end of this behaviour, cows will begin to lose coordination in their muscles and stagger, especially when they are being moved by the farmer.
Walking through the herd, it may be clear that there is a wide range of manure consistency.
In a grazing situation common in Oceania, farmers get to know their animals very well, and can easily pick up on these symptoms. When cows are under the sort of mycotoxin challenge that produces these effects on cows, milk production inevitably drops, and often somatic cell counts will climb at the same time.
In Oceania, pasture remains a cornerstone of ruminant nutrition, and farmers in the region have developed an acute awareness for reading cow signals to help identify mycotoxins, despite the inherent challenges involved.
With Alltech continually developing methods to detect, and combat the adverse effects of Mycotoxins, there’s always help at hand for problematic pastures, whether you’re Down Under or just down the road.
For more information on how Alltech’s Mycotoxin Management team can assist you with detecting or combatting mycotoxins in pastures, please visit www.knowmycotoxins.com.