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Fungi and mycotoxins in horse feed

Sensitivity of horses

The Animal Feed Product Board (PDV) states that horses (and pigs) are one of the most sensitive domesticated animal species for mycotoxins. A mycotoxin is a poison (toxin) produced by an organism of the fungal family, such as mushrooms, filamentous fungi and yeasts. Research into German horse feeds showed that mycotoxins have been found in dozens of brands. Horses can only partially fight these mycotoxins in the body. At high concentrations of these toxins, pregnancy, stress, resistance problems, disturbed intestinal flora, etc., they become more sensitive to these substances and can be harmful. It is not the case that all products formed by fungi belong to the mycotoxins. The term antibiotic is used when the fungal product is mainly toxic to bacteria, such as penicillin, others that are toxic to plants are called phytotoxins.

Fungus growth factors

Most fungi are aerobic (use oxygen), and are found almost everywhere in very small amounts because of their spores. The multiplication of fungi takes place at the right humidity and temperature. This increases the number of mycotoxins. Not optimal conditions during the harvest and storage of grains (concentrates!) Can lead to fungus and mycotoxin formation. Think of insufficiently dried grains and storage in places with high humidity or wet places in silos, for example. The harvesting method must be correct to avoid damage to the product in particular. Damage to cereal grains makes starch available for fungal infection and growth and the associated potential production of mycotoxins. Other factors that influence mold and mycotoxin formation are harvest time, type of crop, fertilization and other environmental influences.

Risks for the horses

Mycotoxins are very resistant in the digestive system. Heating and freezing also do not affect the mycotoxin content. There are hundreds of types of mycotoxins. Most of them do not know exactly what the effect is. It is well known that they are generally very poisonous. Some harmful effects are: reduction of resistance, liver and kidney damage, nerve and respiratory complaints, possibly carcinogenic. In acute poisoning the symptoms resemble a bacterial (gastrointestinal) infection. In chronic cases, growth retardation, reduced food intake, reduced resistance, liver problems, fertility problems, etc. can be seen.


A number of preventive measures are:

  • Correct quality roughage, as this may lead to a lot of fungi / mycotoxins in the ration. It is important to have a roughage analysis done for both the hay / silage and the straw.
  • Increase silage within a few days, due to rapid mold formation under the influence of light, moisture and oxygen.
  • Broken grains, wet / damp silos / barrels stimulate fungal growth and thus mycotoxin production. Advice: have the silo cleaned annually and only crush grains at the time of feeding.
  • Mold can also take place on the grass.
  • Optimize intestinal flora (including suitable and sufficient roughage, watch out for fast sugars).
  • Reducing stress (including proper housing, nutrition, social contact, training, etc.).
  • Minimize the spread of fungi through good hygiene, control pests / insects.

If you have any questions about the above text or about support with nutritional supplements and medication, you are always welcome Contact with us.

You can have feed analyzes done at, among others, BLGG AgroXpertus and GD Deventer

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