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Fusarium Head Blight can cause problems when fed to livestock

By: Trevor Lennox, Regional Forage Specialist, Swift Current.

September 22, 2016

Growing conditions this year resulted in an increased amount of Fusarium Head Blight showing up in southwest Saskatchewan. In fact, many producers experienced this disease for the first time in 2016 when it showed up in their durum crops. The disease is typically found in in wheat (including durum), but can also affect barley, rye, oats and some grasses.

Fusarium may produce toxins (called mycotoxins), which can cause problems for livestock when they ingest the feed. There are several species of Fusarium, and not all of them produce toxins. Of the Fusarium species, Fusarium graminearum is considered the primary mycotoxin producer and the species to watch out for when feeding grain to livestock.

Fusarium Graminearium can produce a few different types of mycotoxins, including zearalenones and trichothecenes. The most common trichothecene toxin produced is deoxynivalenol (DON). In fact, the industry uses DON as a marker. It is an indicator that other toxins may be present in the grain.

DON is found in the infected grain and chaff covering the grain. Little, if any, is found in the straw and leaves of the plant. Agriculture Canada has regulated guidelines for maximum tolerated levels of DON in livestock diets. Rations for beef cattle and poultry may contain up to 5 parts per million (ppm) DON. Diets for swine, young calves and lactating dairy animals may contain up to 1 ppm. Although values are not listed for horses, it is advisable to limit the total dietary intake of DON to not more than 1 ppm.

If Fusarium is suspected in a feed source, it is advisable to have it tested for the presence of mycotoxins. A list of Feed Testing Companies is available for your convenience.

For further information, you can contact Trevor Lennox @ 306-778-8294 or

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