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Evaluating the Cost of Mycotoxin Risk management in the Current Pig Market

With pig producers worldwide experiencing extreme price pressures, the costs of feed and feed additives are coming under scrutiny. Performing a risk analysis can help producers correctly budget for feed additives for mycotoxin management, and understanding the potential effects of mycotoxins on performance is key.

Konstantinos Sarantis

A risk analysis can help pig producers understand the potential losses they could experience due to mycotoxin contamination, and how much budget to allocate to mycotoxin risk management.

In 2019, African Swine Fever outbreaks in major pork producing countries created a supply shortage and subsequent increase in price. However, since the beginning of 2020 and because of the COVID19 situation, pig prices have rapidly declined and pig producers around the world are currently experiencing high price pressure. Under these conditions, feed costs and additional investment in feed additives are scrutinized. In the case of mycotoxins, many may wonder: Is it worth investing in mycotoxin risk management or will it only drive up my costs?

Prevalence of Mycotoxins in Feed

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi and can elicit negative effects on animals’ health and productivity. To date, more than 400 different toxic metabolites have been described. The most studied mycotoxins are aflatoxins (Afla), fumonisins (FUM), zearalenone, deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 toxin (T-2), and ochratoxin A (OTA). However, due to fast analytic developments, a large group of mycotoxins, so-called “emerging mycotoxins”, are coming to the fore. These mycotoxins occur frequently in feedstuffs and are hazardous, but they are not yet regulated.

The latest results from the Biomin® Survey reveal that samples of final feed intended for pigs were contaminated by 7.65 different metabolites on average. As depicted in Figure 1, 89% of tested samples were contaminated with more than five different mycotoxins. With regard to major mycotoxins, deoxynivalenol had the highest prevalence followed by fumonisin B1 and zearalenone (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Co-contamination in final feed for pig (2020)
Figure 1. Co-contamination in final feed for pig (2020)
Figure 2. Ranking of metabolites prevalence in pig feed (2020)
Figure 2. Ranking of metabolites prevalence in pig feed (2020)

Effects of Mycotoxins in Pigs

Pigs are one of the species most sensitive to mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can evoke both clinical and subclinical effects, including:

  • depressing feed intake
  • impairing gut integrity
  • acting as predisposing factors of infectious agents present in a farm
  • contributing to vaccination failure
  • overloading the liver
  • interfering with the immune system
  • inducing damage in immune system cells 

Thus, presence of mycotoxins in feed can result in poor performance. Performance prediction based on mycotoxin contamination in feed is not a straightforward task. A meta-analysis of publications related to performance effects of mycotoxins revealed high variation. The effects of mycotoxins depend on health status, duration of exposure, nutrition and management. In addition, under natural contamination of mycotoxins there is co-occurrence of more than one mycotoxin. 

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Mycotoxin Risk Management

A risk analysis is a different approach to developing a budget for mycotoxin management. Different scenarios with various performance drops attributable to mycotoxins can be calculated, and budget
for mycotoxin risk management is then defined.

An example, assuming:

  • 1,000 places in finishing barn
  • Three cycles per year (batches of 1,000 pigs are placed up till slaughter three times)
  • Exit weight 115 kg
  • Feed intake 250 kg
  • Live weight price of €0.9

In Biomin® trials, mycotoxins reduced performance in pigs between 4% and 17%. In this case, we’ll assume an extremely conservative 1% drop in performance in any of the rounds due to mycotoxins, without considering mortality changes, additional fixed costs of extra days in feed or carcass rejection due contamination. A 1% drop in performance means that exit weight drops by 1.7 kg (approximately a reduction of 20 gr on average daily gain). In this case revenues will be reduced by €1,547.33. The expected losses can be invested in a feed additive all year round to retain performance. That means an investment of € 2.06 per ton of feed. However, it is critical to choose a feed additive with the capacity to fully retain performance. A non-full recovery will reduce the available budget. 

Table 1. Estimated losses because of mycotoxin and available budget calculation
 Normal1% drop in performance
Revenues per round103,500.00 €101,952.68 €
Revenues annually310,500.00 €305,858.03 €
Losses due to mycotoxins  
per Round -1,547.33 €
Annually -4,641.97 €
Investment per ton of feed
using a feed additive
 € 2.06


  • Current market prices are pressing the margins of pig producers, and it is unknown when prices will bounce back. In this environment it is sensible to re-evaluate costs of feed additives. However, mycotoxins are a constant threat for the herd. They can act at different levels impairing health and performance. Occurrence of mycotoxins in feed has a dynamic nature and it is difficult to predict the exact effects on performance. Considering potential economic losses that mycotoxins can impose, budget for mycotoxin risk management can be estimated, but a high efficacy of mycotoxin detoxification is crucial.


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Andretta I, Kipper M, Lehnen CR, Hauschild L, Vale MM, Lovatto PA. Meta-analytical study of productive and nutritional interactions of mycotoxins in growing pigs. Animal. 2012 Sep;6(9):1476-82.

Chaytor A, Hansen J, van Heugten E, See M, Kim S. Occurrence and Decontamination of Mycotoxins in Swine Feed Asian-Australas J Anim Sci 2011;24(5):723-738.

Grenier B, Bracarense AP, Schwartz HE, Lucioli J, Cossalter AM, Moll WD, Schatzmayr G, Oswald IP. Biotransformation approaches to alleviate the effects induced by fusarium mycotoxins in swine. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jul 10;61(27):6711-9.

Pierron A, Alassane-Kpembi I, Oswald IP. Impact of mycotoxin on immune response and consequences for pig health. Anim Nutr. 2016 Jun;2(2):63-68.