Respiratory infections, recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) and exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH) are major causes of poor performance in horses. Fungi and mycotoxins are now recognised as a major cause of these conditions. The most notable fungi are Aspergillus and Fusarium. Fungal spores can originate from forage, bedding and feed and, in turn, these fungal spores can produce a series of mycotoxins as secondary metabolites.
This study set out to ascertain the degree of fungal and mycotoxin contamination in feed and fodder used in Irish racing yards over a one-year period. Weather conditions in forage producing areas were sampled by Met Eireann and the Canadian Meteorological Service.
50% of Irish hay, 37% of haylage and 13% of Canadian hay contained pathogenic fungi. Of the mycotoxins, T2 and Zearalenone were most prominent. Twenty-one per cent of Irish hay and 16% of pelleted feed contained Zearalenone. Forty per cent of oats and 54% of pelleted feed contained T2 toxins.
Keywords: Aspergillus; mycotoxins; RAO; EIPH
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