Alltech Symposium Serves International Audience

Attended by delegates from more than 60 countries, Alltech’s International Feed Industry Symposium provided an abundance of information for those involved with horses, poultry, pigs, dairy and beef cattle, agronomy, aquaculture, and companion animals. Each year, the meeting provides a forum for researchers and international industry leaders to gather, exchange ideas, and discuss the future of the animal feed industry.

Topics in the equine section included mycotoxin contamination, problems related to nutrition, antioxidants of exercising horses, starch digestion in the small intestine, identifying and solving semen quality problems, and much more.

In his opening address, Pearse Lyons, PhD, president of Alltech, challenged the audience to take on industry challenges, search for solutions, and take advantage of scientific advances. “Brand your feed,” he said. “Be different.” He then gave examples of companies that have gone beyond producing a great product to branding of that product as something special and to be desired, such as Starbucks coffee and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

This year’s keynote speaker was Inge Russell, BSc, BSE, PhD, a research scientist and professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Russell pointed out that technology is sometimes quicker than answers to the ethical questions that arise from some technological advances, such as cloning and DNA sequencing. That technology might allow people to have their DNA sequenced for $1,000 within three years, according to one company that performs the procedure. She closed her talk with a discussion of how much we still have to learn; for instance, we only know 1% of the world’s bacteria.

Mycotoxin Researcher Recognized
Trevor Smith, BSc, MSc, PhD, professor at the University of Guelph in Canada, was awarded Alltech’s 2003 Medal of Excellence in Bioscience for the Feed Industry for his groundbreaking research into mycotoxins and for his work on the efficacy and mode of action of natural solutions to mycotoxicosis. (Some species of molds exude poisons called mycotoxins as part of their metabolism. Some types of mycotoxins are potentially fatal to horses--and they can be very difficult to detect.)

“Twenty five percent of the world’s grain supply is contaminated,” said Smith. “And that is a figure from 1985. This is an increasing problem. Molds are everywhere, and mycotoxins are the weapon of choice for molds.”

Mycotoxin contamination results in reduced feed quality, reduced nutrient content of the feed, and reduced animal efficiency either through poor conversion of nutrients or problems such as reproductive abnormalities.

He pointed out that scientists don’t know exactly how many mycotoxins there are, but they are discovering more information every year. What makes mycotoxins so dangerous is that sometimes the metabolites (products) of the mycotoxin can be more toxic than the mycotoxin. In addition, most of the time mycotoxins work together. For example, fusaric acid increases the toxicity of vomitoxin.

Smith pointed out that scientists have three theories about how mycotoxins cause damage. These include inhibition of protein, DNA, and RNA synthesis; alteration of membrane structure; and induction of programmed cell death.

So, what do we do about mycotoxins? he asked the audience. One option is to use feed additives, such as clays, which adsorb (the process of one material attracting and holding molecules of another substance to the surface of its molecules) mycotoxins. However, adsorption depends on the size of the molecule and the molecular charge of the molecule being adsorbed. A problem with clays is that they are needed in high concentration to work, but they have no nutritional value. Many of them have non-specific binding, meaning that they can also bind to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and more--all the good things in the horse’s feed--and many clays are not effective against the most toxic mycotoxins.

Smith said that alternatives are available. An ideal alternative would bind a wide range of mycotoxins, could be used in low concentrations, would act rapidly and uniformly, maintain stability under heat and in the gastrointestinal tract, would not bind necessary nutrients in the feed, and would be biodegradable.

“Yeast is an attractive possibility,” he said. Yeast has a number of qualities that might make it the product of the future to fight mycotoxins. These include a high level of specificity and affinity for a wide range of mycotoxins; low inclusion rate; no effect on the availability of minerals, nutrients, or drugs; stability over different pH values; scientifically proven in controlled in vivo studies; and good quality control in production.

Alltech has a yeast cell wall-derived modified glucomannan product called Mycosorb, which has been shown to be effective in a number of studies. In one study at the University of Guelph by Susan Raymond, PhD candidate (Life Sciences) and research associate at the Equine Research Centre, study horses were fed one of three diets--a control diet with no mycotoxin contamination, a contaminated diet, and a contaminated diet with 0.2% Mycosorb. Horses which consumed the non-contaminated diet ate the most. Horses did not want to eat the contaminated diet, but consumption increased with the use of Mycosorb.

So, Smith said, as we move into the future of fighting mycotoxins, we know one thing: More research is needed.

About the Author

Sarah Evers Conrad

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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