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Contaminated Feeds Can Make Dairy Cattle Sick And Contaminate Milk And Milk Products

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Many domestic animals such as cattle, hogs, horses, sheep, goats, turkey’s, and chickens can be made sick by eating mycotoxin (fungal toxins) contaminated grains, legumes (such as peanuts or soybeans), and grasses and other forage crops. 

(Becker-Algeri et al., 2016; Golder et al., 2016)

A case study was presented of 165 dairy cattle (mixed ages) in Tasmania, Australia who suddenly become ill after grazing barley grass contaminated with mycotoxins from the leaf smut Jamesdicksonia dacytlidis, Nigrospora, and 2 more unidentified fungi. Milk production dropped suddenly in 94 cows, and the animals showed signs of severe distress, staggering and lying on the ground, sensitive to sunlight, and distress sounds. Nineteen cattle died of the mycotoxin poisoning. Necropsies on two of the cows indicated severe liver damage.

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Analysis of barley grass eaten by the cattle found 55 different mycotoxins- many of them at high levels including several mycotoxins commonly found in moldy or water damaged indoor environments such as trichothecenes, fuminosins, and zearalenones. When cows eat feeds mycotoxin contaminated feeds, the mycotoxins can show up in milk and other dairy products. A review of 26 studies in South America, Europe and Asia reported that aflatoxin was found in 1.1 to 100% of milk samples collected, with 9 of these studies reporting alflatoxins being detected in over 90% of the samples. Many of these diary milk samples had aflatoxin levels exceeding the European Union limit of 0.05 part per billion of alfatoxins. Other mycotoxins such as zearelenone and ochratoxins are sometimes found in cows milk as well. Aflatoxins can also be found in human milk.

References / Sources

Becker-Algeri, T. A., Castagnaro, D., de Bortoli, K., de Souza, C., Drunkler, D. A., & Badiale- Furlong, E. (2016). Mycotoxins in Bovine Milk and Dairy Products: A Review. J Food Sci, 81(3), R544-552. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13204

Golder, H. M., Moss, N., Rogers, G., Jackson, B., Gannon, N., Wong, P., & Lean, I. J. (2016). Acute photosensitisation and mortality in a herd of dairy cattle in Tasmania. N Z Vet J, 1-19. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2016.1232181


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