Not all of the moulds that grow on animal feeds are toxic, but those that produce mycotoxins are, and they can cause chronic health problems and reduced productivity in livestock. However, the occurrence of mycotoxicosis in cattle can remain undetected due to a lack of specific symptoms and overlapping symptoms associated with other metabolic diseases such as acidosis.
Unlike pigs and poultry, cattle and sheep have a protective mechanism for handling mycotoxins in that microorganisms in the rumen are able to detoxify an array of mycotoxins associated with forage-based diets. However, young calves, before the rumen has fully developed, and high yielding cows receiving high- concentrate, starch-containing diets, both lack this capability.
Mycotoxicosis is considered by veterinarians to be a significant potential disease hazards to livestock. During 2013, 86 vet practices in the south-west of England were surveyed and at the time vets in half of these practices were of the opinion that the incidence of mycotoxicosis in dairy herds was on the increase, although 26% felt it was a problem that was being over-diagnosed (Roderick et al., 2014).