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How to tackle ergot contamination in feed?


In response to the ongoing efforts of compound feed processors across central Europe to provide safe animal feed that complies with the most stringent regulations, Bühler, shares some insights into the largely untapped but vital, role that optical sorters play in significantly reducing ergot contamination in feed.
What trends in feed safety can be observed in the compound feed industry?
Edyta Margas: The increased development of antimicrobial resistance poses a growing threat to public health and is therefore becoming a focus of regulatory attention. According to the OECD, 75 per cent of the annual consumption of antimicrobial preparation in Europe and the USA is accounted for by the agricultural sector.

The first step toward avoiding the use of antibiotics is to improve hygiene in the compound feed processing industry and in the immediate vicinity of the animals (i.e. in the stables). New legal requirements and standards will have an impact on compound feed production. Recent examples include the EU Commission's ban on formaldehyde for treating salmonella (EU 2018/183) and the most comprehensive reform of food and feed safety in the history of the U.S. with the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA).

Concerns about the future of our planet and the demand for greater sustainability also continue to grow. This, in turn, will force the compound feed industry to take two types of action: improve the health of livestock, making livestock production more efficient and minimise performance-limiting factors such as toxins like ergot in feed.

How easy is it to detect ergot fungus and under what conditions does it attack rye?
Lutz Matthiesen: Ergot fungus is easily recognised. It attaches itself during the flowering of grass or cereals and develops into a blue-black, grain-like structure up to 4 cm in length and approximately 3 mm in width by the time it is ripe. The fungus can infest all types of cereals, but is primarily found in rye. Infection occurs more frequently following a damp spring and a hot summer.
Why should central European compound feed producers be keeping a close eye on ergot contamination levels?
Matthiesen: In Germany for instance feed regulation restricts the limit for ergot at 0.1 per cent by weight. In the harvest year 2020, this value corresponded exactly to the average occurrence. Exceeding the limit value - which must be reported to the authorities - is therefore likely. We’ve also noticed that meat producers are increasingly paying attention to using high-quality feed so as to avoid the risk of diseases and longer rearing periods. It is in this context that routine quality audits are conducted at feed producers or in their own laboratories.

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