Research from IGFS and industry leader finds link between mycotoxins and poultry performance
IGFS researchers and leading agri technology company Devenish have partnered on a longitudinal study to prove the negative effect of low levels of mycotoxins on broiler chicken health and performance.
The research, published in Toxins journal, demonstrates the negative effect of low levels of naturally-occurring toxic substances, ‘mycotoxins’, found in animal feed, on poultry performance and health.
The longitudinal three-year study, believed to be a world first, was led by PhD student Oluwatobi Kolawole at IGFS, in partnership with Devenish. Its findings demonstrate that even low levels of mycotoxins, below EU regulatory levels, have a direct negative impact on birds’ performance.
“Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by fungi that can have serious effects on health, performance and the immune system of animals and humans if they get into feed or food,” explained Mr Kolawole.
“While it is well known that mycotoxins at high levels negatively impact animal health, to date it has been difficult to accurately examine the impact of these at low levels. This was, therefore, a long-term feeding trial to evaluate the effect of low doses of mycotoxin mixtures on the performance of broiler chickens being fed a naturally contaminated diet.
“We monitored birds over 18 crops and continually examined the level of mycotoxins against the performance of the birds.
“While the levels of mycotoxins were low, the mixture of those present throughout the study had a profound negative impact on bird health and performance. The study showed that an increase in mycotoxins led to an increase in Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR). Increased levels of mycotoxins also led to a decrease in feed intake by the birds and a decrease in body weight.” Kolawaole.
Professor Chris Elliott, who supervised the academic side of the project, added: “This piece of research, in partnership with Devenish, revealed fascinating results that are of crucial significance to poultry producers and will undoubtedly lead to future collaboration to further extend our knowledge in this field.
“While regulatory levels of mycotoxins set by the EU are centred around safety, this study was centred around performance. The negative impact that mycotoxins had on bird performance highlights the importance of poultry producers being aware of even low levels of these toxins. Therefore, they must consider how they are going to mitigate the impact of even low levels of mycotoxins in their animals’ diet.
“Importantly, the study identified a specific mix of mycotoxins (DON, FBs, ZEN and DAS) that are relevant to poultry. For that reason, we can conclude that best combatting the issue can be achieved through an additive specifically designed to target poultry specific mycotoxins.”
Devenish and IGFS have a long-standing partnership built around pioneering nutritional and technical research.
Headquartered in Northern Ireland, with sites across Ireland, the UK, USA, Turkey and Uganda, Devenish is a leading provider of environmental, animal and human health solutions. Employing over 700 people globally and trading in over 50 countries, Devenish carries out pioneering research and development in health and sustainability throughout the food chain, in response to the growing consumer demand for safe, nutritious and sustainably produced food.
“Devenish is proud to have once again collaborated with our partners at IGFS to undertake this significant piece of research,” added Jonny Lester, Poultry Technical Manager at Devenish.
“Leading the way in global nutritional expertise allows us to offer our customers valuable insight into optimising their animals’ health and performance whilst also having a positive impact on their bottom line.
“We have calculated the impact of these mycotoxins on profitability. With FCR across crops differing by up to 14 points and each point of FCR resulting in additional feed costs, feeding a species-specific mycotoxin binder, such as SmartShieldAV, at low levels all year and increasing it as required, is likely to have significant financial benefits.
“As well as performance and profitability, there are also sustainability benefits in reducing mycotoxin presence in a poultry flock. Improvement in this area would reduce raw material input such as soya and the land use change associated with its use. Reduction in FCR would also have the potential to reduce nutrient excretion and its impact on the environment.
“This type of ‘precision nutrition’ research, when applied commercially, allows our customers to get closer to the genetic potential of their stock and ultimately brings producers benefits across performance, profitability and sustainability.”
The full published article: “Low Doses of Mycotoxin Mixtures below EU Regulatory Limits Can Negatively Aﬀect the Performance of Broiler Chickens: A Longitudinal Study” can be downloaded at https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6651/12/7/433