Texas Bentonites as Amendments of Aflatoxin-Contaminated Poultry Feed



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Aflatoxins are toxic organic compounds produced by fungi in grains. Moderately contaminated grains that cannot be used as food are often directed to animal feed. Economically-feasible detoxification measures for contaminated feeds are needed. The objectives of this research were to identify effective bentonites as aflatoxin adsorbents and to evaluate the performance of the clays as aflatoxin amendments in feed for broiler chickens.

Five bentonite samples from Gonzales, Texas, USA were collected and analyzed against the published selection criteria for aflatoxin adsorbents: aflatoxin adsorption capacity, pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), organic carbon, particle size distribution, and mineralogical and structural compositions. Two bentonites were identified as potentially good aflatoxin adsorbents based on the analyses. These two bentonites were selected for an in vivo poultry experiment where chickens were fed with aflatoxin-contaminated corn (1400 ppb) to test the detoxification efficacy of the clays. Detailed mineralogy analyses were conducted on these two samples (4TX and 1TX) after size fractionation. Clay 4TX and 1TX contained 87 percent and 65 percent clay, respectively. Smectite was the dominant mineral phase in both clay fractions. Quartz and feldspars were also present in both samples. These minerals are unlikely to cause harmful effects on the chickens. The presence of pyrite and heavy metals in 1TX raised concerns about its use in animal feed.

The clays were introduced into feed by mixing the dry bentonite powder with the feed for twelve minutes in a mechanical mixer. The body weight was increased by 21 percent with clay 4TX and 14 percent with clay 1TX in the aflatoxin diet. The concentration of total aflatoxins in liver was reduced by 36 percent with the addition of clays. Liver visual appearance was also improved from pale red to a more reddish color resembling the healthy red liver. All chickens fed clean feed had significantly higher body weights than those fed with highly contaminated feed, suggesting that the clays did not completely eliminate aflatoxin toxicity.

The published aflatoxin binder selection criteria were useful for screening bentonites as aflatoxin amendments. The selected bentonites based on the criteria could effectively sequester aflatoxins in vivo. Yet direct mixing of bentonite as dry powder to highly contaminated poultry feed could not eliminate the toxicity of aflatoxins.