Mycotoxins and Safeguard EQ®

What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by fungus. Fungi and moulds are tiny in scale, growing on pastures, cereal crops and in hay which end up in your horse’s diet. The mycotoxins produced by fungus and mould spores are microscopic and can enter your horse’s system by ingestion and inhalation.

A toxin binder such as Hygain® Safeguard EQ® helps prevent mycotoxins from being absorbed by the digestive system, thus minimizing the harm.

horse pasture mycotoxins binder

Why mycotoxins are harmful for horses

The effect of mycotoxins on the horse is called mycotoxicosis -what a mouthful!
Mycotoxicosis is harmful to the horse’s organs, immune and endocrine system. Research is currently underway to better understand mycotoxins and their interactions with horses. Studies in other livestock animals have helped guide the approach for the horse industry and its use of mycotoxin binders.

Signs and symptoms of mycotoxicosis in horses

Horses can generally handle a low level of mycotoxins without showing external symptoms. If a horse has been exposed to a high level of mycotoxins then you might notice some of the following signs:

  • Weight-loss and general dullness,
  • stunted growth,
  • neurological disorders,
  • impaired immune system,
  • reproductive issues and
  • breathing issues,
  • girthiness,
  • fizzyness, behavioural problems etc.

That’s quite a broad field! Part of the reason why mycotoxicity can affect so many systems is that it isn’t one single mycotoxin at play -it’s many! There are hundreds of mycotoxins identified by science, and no doubt many yet to be discovered. Here is a list of some of the most common offenders:

Toxin Type 

Source 

Effect 

Aflatoxins 

Maize, Cereals, Copra 

Loss of weight, reduced fertility, reduced immunity. (Horses struggling to put on condition) 

Fusarium/ Fumonisins. 

Soil, Cereal Crops, Oats, Wheat etc 

Neurological issues including drowsiness, staggering, apathy, blindness. 

Endophyte Alkaloids 

Pasture (eg Ryegrass, Paspalum etc) 

Staggers, poor doing, hypersensitivity, behavioural. 

Trichothecenes 

Grains 

Poor appetite, weight loss, tucked up, poor performance 

 

Is your horse eating mycotoxins?

The very nature of mouldy hay or pasture makes it unpalatable to horses. If given the option, they’ll avoid it. The not so good news is that nearly all feeds and pastures contain some degree of mycotoxins -if only in small amounts. Certain environments, such as flushes of warm humid weather can trigger a bloom in mycotoxins. This makes it more difficult for your horse to be selective in their forage. Hay that is exposed to moisture during storage is also at increased risk of growing mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins and horses

Can feed and pasture be tested for mycotoxins?

Yes and no. Feed and pasture can be tested for mycotoxins, but a sample taken from one section of a paddock can be low in mycotoxins, whilst another section of the same paddock can be high.

Why? Paddocks are not sterile controlled environments. From one acre to the next you can gather wildly different samples. The variation in samples reflects changes in shade, moisture, terrain, and use. So even with testing, it’s difficult to declare a pasture as free from mycotoxins.

Additionally, mycotoxins can grow after a crop is harvested. There are multiple opportunities for a feed to be affected:

  • In transit.
  • At the mill.
  • In the feed room.

Just because a feed has been tested at some point, doesn’t mean it won’t develop mycotoxins before it reaches your horse’s mouth.

Cause for panic? No.
Cause to choose quality feeds that have been kept in dry, cool conditions? Absolutely.

How does a mycotoxin binder work?

A toxin binder like Hygain® Safeguard EQ® helps “bind” mycotoxins within the digestive system, preventing them from being absorbed so that they pass (harmlessly) out with manure. It’s a bit like “hand-cuffing” the toxins and escorting them to the exit!

How does Hygain® Safeguard EQ® compare to other mycotoxin binders?

Hygain® Safeguard EQ® is a broad spectrum toxin binder, meaning it doesn’t target just one type of mycotoxin. Its pelleted formula is a clear advantage over powder, making it easier to feed.

Adding a mycotoxin binder to your horse’s diet may help your horse avoid debilitating conditions. If you have any further concerns about your horse’s diet, reach out to Hygain’s nutrition team for personalised advice.

 

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