LOW LEVELS of mycotoxins in poultry feed negatively affect broiler health and performance, a new paper has suggested.

It is the first longitudinal study of its kind to examine how low levels of mycotoxins – below EU regulatory thresholds – impact broilers.

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“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,” according to study author Oluwatobi Kolawole, from Queen’s University Belfast.

The work was conducted in partnership with agri-technology company Devenish.

“Whilst 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,” Mr Kolawole added.

Broiler health

“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.”

The study monitored broilers over 18 crops, examining the level of mycotoxins against bird performance.

“Whilst the levels of mycotoxins were low, the mixture of those present throughout the study had a profound negative impact on bird health and performance,” explained Mr Kolawole.

“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.”

Mycotoxins and performance

Chris Elliott, Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast, said the results were “of crucial significance to poultry producers and will undoubtedly lead to future collaboration to further extend our knowledge in this field”.

“Whilst 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.

The full published article can be found on the MDPI website (external link).