Developing and refining feed mill mycotoxins control plans

01 May 20245 min reading

Feed mills are pivotal in mitigating mycotoxins, with tailored control plans essential for safeguarding animal feed. Understanding ingredient risks, implementing rigorous testing, and strategic storage are key steps in ensuring feed safety and optimizing animal health.

Mycotoxins, like aflatoxins (AFL), deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM), ochratoxin A (OTA), T2 toxins (T2) and zearalenone (ZEN), are naturally occurring toxins produced from certain molds. These molds can proliferate on agricultural commodities in unfavorable temperature, moisture or growing conditions in the field or in storage.

Feed mills have a responsibility to safeguard animal feed with robust programs to monitor and minimize mycotoxins in feed. By implementing targeted control plans that identify and anticipate mycotoxin risk each year, feed mills can minimize risk to animals.


Feed mills play a critical role in mycotoxin mitigation and must have an effective, multi-layered control program in place. Here are key steps to develop a successful mycotoxin mitigation plan:

Determine each ingredient’s mycotoxin risk likelihood and severity

When developing a mycotoxin control plan, you must understand each ingredient’s mycotoxin susceptibility. First, identify ingredients that have a known contamination risk. It is important to pay close attention to the weather during growing season and reevaluate this risk each harvest. Next, ask ingredient suppliers about testing protocols, if the ingredient is at risk. Leverage scientific information and available reports (like this one) to research each ingredient. Third understand each mycotoxin’s animal health impact and ensure you know regulatory mycotoxin limits. At elevated levels, mycotoxins pose food safety hazards for animals that can lead to animal health consequences. At low levels, mycotoxins can impact animal productivity and performance.

Assign risk levels for each mycotoxin and ingredient

Once you gather key insights, mycotoxins trend data, and risks for ingredients, assign risk levels to each for the season. At Cargill, we assign risk levels in three categories:

Low Risk: The ingredient is likely not susceptible to mycotoxins and does not require ongoing monitoring. Scientific reports and previous testing demonstrate low or impossible mycotoxin contamination likelihood.

Medium Risk: The ingredient may require monitoring at some defined frequency. Research shows the ingredient may be susceptible to mycotoxin contamination based on weather patterns or growing region.

High Risk: The ingredient requires consistent monitoring and a defined control plan to minimize risk. It is widely known to be susceptible to specific mycotoxin contamination each year.

Implement a Control Program

For medium and high-risk ingredients, we recommend a written testing and control plan to minimize risk to the finished product. A strategic and written plan will help a feed mill think through which actions to take at what time, including:

Testing Frequency: Decide testing frequency. Leave flexibility to increase testing should risk level go up or reduce frequency should risk levels remain low. Consider testing more during harvest or if you see frequent load rejections and/or elevated mycotoxin concentration levels.

Acceptance Limits: Establish specific acceptance levels for each mycotoxin. This level should not be greater than what regulations allow. Also consider the species consuming the feed as risk levels vary. Communicate your acceptance levels to suppliers and do not use ingredients above these limits. 

Sampling Protocol: Mycotoxins are rarely mixed evenly throughout a conveyance; therefore, taking a “scoop” will not give you a representative measurement. Put a plan in place to collect the best sample possible for accurate results. For example, use a pneumatic, automatic, or manual grain probe in 5+ spots to pull a representative sample.

Test Methods: Choose a validated testing method. Rapid test kits are a preferred option for feed mills receiving ingredients, but mixed feed may need to be sent to a laboratory for primary method testing. 

Proper Storage: Strategically store ingredients to reduce opportunity for mycotoxin development. Best storage protocols focus on temperature, moisture, and relative humidity. Each element must be carefully managed to protect ingredients from mycotoxins. Interested in more storage tips? Visit the 2022 Cargill Global Mycotoxins Report here.

Program Efficacy: Periodically test finished animal feed to measure program efficacy. Testing feed mix helps build programs that evolve as mycotoxin risk changes. If mycotoxins levels are below risk thresholds, your protocols are most likely effective. If they are above risk thresholds, it is important to evaluate possible issues – are samples representative of levels received? Should testing be increased? Are ingredients stored properly? Was there change to ingredients? These questions help determine how to adjust testing strategies.


Another way to lower mycotoxin levels in feed mix is smart ingredient formulation. When using formulation as a strategy, it is important to know mycotoxin levels present in ingredients. Note: Some countries have laws that prohibit deliberate feedstuffs mixing to lower elevated mycotoxin levels. Where allowed by regulation, consider anti-mycotoxin agents in your formulation to reduce impact. We know mycotoxins are just one factor in various inputs and considerations within your operation. When you partner with Cargill Animal Nutrition and Health, you gain an experienced partner and feed producer that has developed and applied quality mycotoxins management strategies for decades. We support your feed mill teams to develop and maintain strong, preventive, mycotoxins testing programs. From the very beginning testing truckloads to the final animal feed product, we work to minimize mycotoxin impact to ensure feed safety and that animals remain healthy and productive.

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