🍄 Fungi love growing in warm, wet conditions and unfortunately this includes the fungi that grow on grass, grass seeds, hay, silage, grains and stored horse feeds, producing harmful and invisible mycotoxins. Horse health, welfare and physical performance can be severely impacted by eating mycotoxin-contaminated food and pasture.
Mycotoxins are harmful substances produced by bacteria and fungi that grow on pastures, hay/silage and grains. Mycotoxins are invisible and cannot be detected by smell or taste.
Endophytes are fungi that live in a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with pasture plants. Many pasture species such as ryegrass and fescue carry endophytes which provide the plant with enhanced resistance to some insect pests, improves seedling establishment, photosynthesis, drought tolerance and increases seed production. Unfortunately, the mycotoxins produced by endophyte fungi are toxic to horses.
After ingestion, mycotoxins interfere with gastrointestinal function, disrupting the gut lining and the microflora of the digestive tract before being absorbed into the bloodstream where they can impact on many organs, sometimes causing permanent damage.
Because there are many types of mycotoxins which can act on many organs, symptoms can vary widely and may include any of the following:
😬 Itchy skin
☹️ Head flicking or uncharacteristic spookiness
😩 Unpredictable or naughty behaviour
🤨 “Sunburn” or photosensitivity
😫 Greasy heel or “Summer mud fever”
😩 Dull coat or patchy hair growth
😏 Cough or runny noses
😞 Muscle tightness or swollen lower limbs
☹️ Shuffling gait or lameness
☹️ Ill-thriftiness despite good feed.
Symptom severity depends on the type and amount of toxin present and the individual’s immunity or tolerance to mycotoxins. It is not unusual for one horse in a paddock to be much more affected than others on identical feeds.
With high rainfall and warm days across many regions of Australia and New Zealand throughout late summer this year, affected horses need the help of a broad-spectrum mycotoxin binder to stay in top health.
How to choose the right mycotoxin binder
Although many substances have toxin binding properties, to be effective and safe in animal nutrition a toxin binder must be able to:
- bind the targeted mycotoxins;
- hold on to the toxin for the remainder of the journey through the gut;
- not bind important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and medications available for uptake into the bloodstream;
- be safe as a feed additive and non-toxic to animals;
- show scientifically demonstrated efficacy within animals at the lowest recommended dosage.
The effectiveness of toxin binders can be improved by combining multiple active ingredients to broaden the range of toxins bound in the gut. They may also provide additional nutraceutical support through the addition of antioxidants, botanical extracts and probiotics. When selecting a toxin binder for your horse, ask for evidence that it doesn’t tie up important nutrients including vitamins and minerals.
Reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination by only feeding forages, grains and feeds that have been well stored. Discard any damp, stained or smelly feed. If toxin binders do not rapidly assist your horse with mild symptoms, remove the horse from the pasture and seek veterinary advice.
Farmalogic Grazaid is a state-of-the-art risk management solution to protect horses against mycotoxins and endotoxins. It contains synergistically acting ingredients providing multiple modes of action:
- Mineral and organic binders which selectively bind adsorbable and polar mycotoxins such as aflatoxins and ergot alkaloids.
- Biotransformation agents proven to transform non-polar mycotoxins into non-toxic metabolites.
- Bioprotection via live yeast probiotics and botanical extracts to provide immune support and reduce the toxic side effects caused by mycotoxins.
- Macrominerals to reduce the risk of grass tetany, muscle tightness and ‘grass-affected behaviour’ that can occur due to seasonal nitrate and potassium spikes.
Scientific investigations have demonstrated that the toxin binders in Farmalogic Grazaid are very specifically targeted to mycotoxins, leaving polar nutrients and medications available in the diet.
Management of severely mycotoxin-affected horses may be enhanced with the addition of antioxidants such as Farmalogic Melox to reduce the negative impact of free radical tissue damage associated with the presence of toxins in the body.
Learn more about mycotoxins and horse health in our free ebook.