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Why fighting mycotoxins with binders may be a losing battle

Rob Hamaker, Vice President, Sales and Marketing - Agrarian Solutions

A broad-spectrum, biological approach can help dairy farmers win the war against mycotoxins.

MIDDLEBURY, Ind. – Binders are a known resource to help dairy farmers with mycotoxin issues, but one binder doesn’t work for all mycotoxins. In fact, binders are very specific in their control of individual mycotoxins. For example, a binder may be very good in controlling aflatoxin, but very poor at controlling other types of mycotoxins.

You’re most likely fighting more than one mycotoxin if you have a mycotoxin issue. Therefore, relying on a single binder to tackle a broad-spectrum problem is not an effective or economical approach. 

“When conditions are favorable for one mycotoxin to become elevated and infect an animal, chances are good that other mold-producing mycotoxins like the same type of growing condition and will be present too,” says Rob Hamaker, vice president, sales and marketing, Agrarian Solutions. “There are very few situations where a feed analysis sample is taken and only one mycotoxin is present. A single mycotoxin may be dominant, but others are typically present.”

Beyond being specific to individual mycotoxins, there are other reasons why binders may not be your best option to battle mycotoxins:

1. Binders use a chemical approach.

Binders use chemical properties to bind to mycotoxins. The chemical structure itself makes binders unable to bind to a broader spectrum of mycotoxins. Each group of mycotoxins has a completely different chemical structure. 

For example, a binder for aflatoxin won’t have the same chemical structure as the zearalenone toxin. The cow will be protected from aflatoxin but only aflatoxin. 

Additionally, binders must be considered individually from company to company since each company mills and processes them differently. The result? Different binding properties. For example, a sodium aluminum silicate binder from Company A may not have the same impact as a sodium aluminum silicate binder from Company B. 

2. Binders can be contaminated with heavy metals and dioxins. 

Research shows clay binders (those that bind aflatoxins) can be contaminated with heavy metals and dioxins. These are harmful to animals when consumed, suppressing their immune system or damaging their liver and kidneys. Clay-based binders are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

3. Binder ingredients are nonspecific.

While a binder is very specific to individual mycotoxins, its ingredients are not specific. The ingredients easily bind with essential nutrients in the ration, like vitamin E, minerals, lysine and other micronutrients. Most impacted are microminerals such as copper, manganese and selenium. Instead of cows being able to readily use these nutrients, they are rendered unusable because they are bound up. 

“Selenium is important for immune function, and the immune system is one of the first areas that mycotoxins will impact,” says Hamaker. “So, if you have a mycotoxin challenge affecting your cows’ immune systems and you're using a binder that binds ingredients important for immune health, you’re likely doing more harm than good.”

4. Binders have high feeding rates.

The initial price of binders may not seem like a lot, but high feeding rates (typically 2 to 4 ounces per head per day) can add up. Also, due to their lack of binding affinity, cows will require more binder doses as time goes on. High feeding rates combined with more doses can quickly add up to higher than necessary costs

Broad-spectrum control: The best alternative 

The best alternative to binders is a broad-spectrum control product with L-form bacteria. These products combat feed-borne challenges:
      • Comprehensively. Broad-spectrum control goes beyond single toxin coverage to address a multi-faceted mycotoxin problem.
      • Biologically. Unlike the chemical approach of binders, a broad-spectrum control product doesn’t bind to the mycotoxin. It inhibits and limits mycotoxin absorption by activating a natural system within the cow’s intestinal epithelium. In contrast to a binder which physically grabs onto a mycotoxin and drags it through the cow’s intestinal tract (taking along other important nutrients with it), a broad-spectrum control product colonizes in areas where mycotoxins would be absorbed.
      • Without contamination. There are no heavy metals or dioxins which could potentially harm cow health. 
      • At a low inclusion rate. A broad-spectrum control product is fed at one-third to one-half of an ounce per head per day, making them a more economical alternative.

L-form bacteria also help cow milk production, reproduction and milk quality bounce back to normal quickly. Unlike binders, L-form bacteria influence the overall health of animals and metabolism of the intestinal cells.

Contact your local Select Sires representative or visit to learn how a broad-spectrum, biological approach can assist to control feed-borne challenges and keep your cows on track.


Since 1996, Agrarian Solutions has been a global leader in providing L-Form bacteria-based technologies for dairy cattle, swine and poultry. Agrarian’s cutting-edge L-Form bacteria technology functions inside of animal cells, populating the cells lining the intestinal tract. There, the L-Form bacteria perform specific functions like balancing intestinal immune function, reducing the burden of pathogenic bacteria or combating feed-borne toxins – challenges animals and their owners face every day. Learn more about Agrarian products and technology at

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