Feeding pigs: 5 tips for preserving corn and avoiding the spread of mycotoxins

The importance of feed quality

More than 36% of U.S. corn is intended for animal feed, thanks to its characteristics of high palatability and digestibility. The use of this plant is widespread both in monogastric animals (such as pigs or poultry) and in ruminants.

One of the feeding methods used in pig breeding is silage in the form of corn mash, a method of preserving corn and other grains. It is a very appetizing product for the animal provided it is correctly stored at the right temperature and with the right degree of humidification, preventing the establishment of abnormal fermentations which can compromise its use.

Supply of feed using dry ground grain is also, if not the preponderant, food source in the rationing of pigs of different physiological categories.

The quality of the feed is of primary importance for the productivity of the farm and the welfare of the animal. Particular attention must therefore be paid to the preservation of maize crops and to avoid that they are affected by pathogens during growth and in the storage period after harvest.

In this article we will analyze the possible methods to be implemented in order to correctly preserve maize destined to be fed to pigs, in order to avoid the spreading of fungi.

Pigs, best feed and how to stock it

Dangerous toxins for swines

Problems related to pathogens in maize mainly concern the presence of mycotoxins, that is toxic substances derived from fungi mainly of the genera Fusarium and Penicillium. Pigs, as opposed to ruminants, are very sensitive to ochratoxin (a type of mycotoxin) which affects the liver, kidney and fat of the animal. This toxin, in addition to affecting the health of the animal when it is alive, also contaminates meat products intended for human consumption, so it is very important to prevent its spread by periodically checking the feed used.

Sows and piglets are generally more susceptible to mycotoxins.  In fact, the presence of mycotoxins in feed, even at low levels, can lead to infertility and abortions, problems of palatability and consequent loss of essential nutrients in certain periods of the animal’s life cycle.

How to store corn to avoid the spread of mycotoxins

Old, stale, and moist feed is the perfect environment for rapid growth of mold and fungus.It’s critical to monitor crops so you can avoid loss of feed quality.

Here are 5 valuable tips to prevent the spread of spores after corn harvest.

1.Crop drying

After harvest, the moisture content of the crop must be dried to 12-14% body weight to be stored safely with minimal spoilage. This can be done through mechanical drying methods or naturally, through the action of the sun and wind. Ventilation of the product done periodically is definitely a practice that helps to maintain the healthiness of the product.

2. Remove damaged corn kernels

In case a part of the grains is not intact, it is good to eliminate them, because once they are put in a silo or in another storage environment, they represent the fraction most attacked by microorganisms, favoring the appearance of molds and fungi. It is very important to handle grains with care, especially in case a shelling process is done or during post harvest handling.

Avoid mycotoxins in silage for animals

3. Cleaning and preventive control of the storage site

Before filling the silo or other storage environment with the collected material, it is very important to inspect the inner surface of it. It is necessary to remove any residue from previous harvests and repair any damaged or rusted parts.

As a precautionary measure, a disinfectant spray can also be used on all interior surfaces of the empty storage place to kill mold spores.

4. Ventilate the storage environment

Aeration of stored corn can prevent moisture accumulation in certain locations within a container. In the event that corn becomes wet, the use of a fan to increase airflow and reduce moisture in the grain is strictly necessary.

5. Monitor indoor temperature

In addition to aerating the corn, it is necessary to cool it whenever the ambient air temperature permits. This will slow the growth rate of fungal organisms and extend the shelf life of the crop.

Monitoring storage site temperatures will provide some indication of mold growth and signal the need for corrective action before the spread of fungi and spores in the storage area becomes too extensive. For proper indoor temperature monitoring, a thermometer should be placed at least five feet deep and at least 60 inches from the wall. The appropriate temperature for a silage should not exceed 20°C.

Alessandro Azzolin
Alessandro Azzolin
Digital marketing intern, with interests in different cultures. My priority is the preservation of ecosystems.
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