We all want good clean feed for our birds, but sometimes mold has a tendency of appearing. Knowing what is dangerous, how to identify it, and how to treat it is a priority should you come across a mold problem in your feed.
The mold itself is not what is harmful to your birds. It is the mycotoxin byproduct that is harmful. It is a microscopic toxin undetectable to the naked eye that is extremely poisonous in very small amounts. Mycotoxins can have adverse affects on your birds including unusual stools, deformed eggs, weight loss, a compromised immune system, lesions on the body and internal organs and just general unthriftiness and poor production. Unfortunately waterfowl are more susceptible to mycotoxins than chickens or turkeys. Therefore, you must be more vigilant in terms of mold.
Mold and their resulting mycotoxins can develop anywhere in the production process of the feed. It can start in the field where the grain is grown and harvested. It can start at the feed mill where the grain is ground and mixed into your feed. It can start while it is sitting on the shelf in your local feed store. It can start where you keep the feed once you buy it. The bottom line is there is no one definitive place your feed can produce mold.
Prevention is the best defense against mold. Mold grows best in damp and dirty areas, therefore, keep your feed in places that are dry and clean. You will have a harder time in humid climates to prevent mold, but it can be done by being diligent in how and where you store your feed.
If you buy your feed sacked, there is not much you can do other than buy from a reputable source, keep it as dry as possible, and use it within a month. You have much more flexibility, however, if your feed is being made for you. Ingredients can be added to absorb mycotoxins or kill mold and you can test your feed for mycotoxins before it is fed.
The most commonly added ingredients are aluminosilicates such as clay and bentonite which bind the mycotoxins allowing them to pass through the bird with minimum absorption. Newer additives include complex indigestible carbohydrates from yeasts. These ingredients must be added during the formulation of the feed to ensure it is uniformly spread throughout the feed. Other ingredients like propionic and other organic acids can prevent the growth of mold and resulting mycotoxins.
Testing of your feed for mycotoxins by sending samples to a lab is recommended if you have a concern. You can also purchase kits that you can use yourself to determine if your feed contains molds or mycotoxins. These kits can be purchased from companies such as Bioo Scientific, Romer Labs, or Charm Sciences Inc. Many of these kits are quick and easy to use to detect common mycotoxins. If you are purchasing truck loads of feed, you can test the feed before accepting it from your supplier.
If you ever find mold growing on your feed, you need to throw away the moldy feed. Otherwise you are taking a great risk in feeding it to your birds. As stated previously, prevention is the best way to deal with a mold issue. Buy from a reputable company that tests for mycotoxins, keep your feed dry and use it within a month.