Mycotoxin mitigation for enhanced egg production layer hen performance, meta-analysis reveals


Mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by fungi, often contaminate poultry feed, leading to significant health issues and production losses in laying hens.

A 2024 study, ‘Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Yeast Cell Wall Extract Supplementation during Mycotoxin Challenges on the Performance of Laying Hens’, examined how yeast cell wall extract (YCWE) can help laying hens perform better under these challenging conditions.1

This study examined the dynamics of mycotoxin contamination in poultry farming, seeking to unravel the complexities surrounding the impact of mycotoxins on layer hen performance. By conducting a meta-analysis, which pools data from multiple independent studies, the researchers aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the effectiveness of YCWE in mitigating the effects of mycotoxin challenges.

Through examination of eight trials encompassing 1,774 laying hens, the study scrutinized various treatment scenarios, including control groups without mycotoxin exposure, groups challenged with mycotoxins, and those supplemented with YCWE while also fed mycotoxins. This approach not only sheds light on the specific performance outcomes but also offers valuable insights into the broader context of mycotoxin management strategies within the poultry industry.

Impacts of mycotoxins on laying hens

The types of mycotoxins studied, such as deoxynivalenol (DON), aflatoxin, zearalenone and T-2 toxin, are commonly found in poultry feed worldwide. In fact, a global analysis showed that 97% of feed samples contained multiple mycotoxins, highlighting the widespread nature of this issue.2

Adverse effects of these mycotoxins in laying hens may include:


Aflatoxin contamination can lead to poor growth rates and reduced feed conversion efficiency, meaning hens require more feed to produce the same number of eggs. This contamination can also cause significant damage to vital organs, particularly the liver, and can lead to reduced overall health and productivity.

Aflatoxins are prominently immunosuppressive – causing the immune system to weaken – making hens more susceptible to diseases and infections. Ultimately, severe aflatoxin exposure can increase mortality rates among laying hens.


Deoxynivalenol can play a role in supressing feed intake, thereby altering the growth and performance of the bird. Consumption of this mycotoxin by the bird may result in damage to the intestinal tract, poor nutrient uptake or utilization, and imbalance of the gut microbial populations leading to an increase in pathogenic microbes.

Exposure to DON may also cause negative effects to other internal organs such as the reproductive system, leading to altered egg production or quality.


It can cause reproductive issues such as decreased egg production, poor egg quality and abnormalities in the reproductive tract. Exposure to zearalenone can also weaken the immune system, making hens more prone to infections, and can cause growth suppression, hampering overall growth and development.

T-2 toxin

T-2 toxin can lead to a reduced feed intake in laying hens which can result in decreased nutrient uptake, with negative effects on egg production and overall health.

T-2 toxin can also have a negative impact on the immune system of laying hens, increasing the hens’ susceptibility to infections and diseases. It can also seriously harm the digestive system, causing oral and gut lesions as well as hemorrhagic and other digestive disorders.


Fumonisins can have a significant impact on gut health, not only impacting nutrient absorption and feed efficiency but also playing a role in gut microbial populations. Pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella may be increased by the presence of fumonisins. These mycotoxins can also cause liver and kidney damage, impacting the overall health and productivity of the hens.

Fumonisins work as an immunosuppressant, impairing the immune response and increasing susceptibility to diseases. Exposure to fumonisins can also result in egg production decline and poor egg quality, affecting the economic viability of the poultry operation.

Managing mycotoxins impact on laying hens

This study found that mycotoxins negatively impacted laying hens, reducing body weight, egg production and egg weight. However, when YCWE was added to the diet, hens showed significant improvements in these areas. Notably, YCWE helped increase egg production and weight, which are crucial for the overall productivity of laying hens. The study reported a return on investment (ROI) of 4.65:1 when using YCWE during mycotoxin challenges.

_Feed Navigator - Layer Meta Analysis Fig 1
_Feed Navigator - Layer Meta Analysis Fig 2
_Feed Navigator - Layer Meta Analysis Fig 3

Of additional importance is the benefit of YCWE use during mycotoxin challenges on the overall protein output. Due to the increase in egg production and weight, total edible protein output per hen was increase when YCWE was included in the ration of laying hens. Eggs are an important source of protein globally and contribute to a healthy and sustainable diet.

_Feed Navigator - Layer Meta Analysis Fig 4

Of additional importance is the benefit of YCWE use during mycotoxin challenges on the overall protein output. Due to the increase in egg production and weight, total edible protein output per hen was increased when YCWE was included in the ration of laying hens. Eggs are an important source of protein globally and contribute to a healthy and sustainable diet.

Proactive mycotoxin management

To maximize the benefits of YCWE, it’s important to adopt a proactive mycotoxin management strategy, including:

  • Regular monitoring​ Implementing a rigorous mycotoxin monitoring program and regularly testing feed ingredients and finished feeds for mycotoxin contamination will help in early detection and mitigation.
  • Quality feed ingredients​ Sourcing high-quality feed ingredients and ensuring proper storage and handling practices will help to minimize the risk of mycotoxin contamination during storage.
  • Improved storage​ Investing in proper storage facilities that maintain ideal temperature and humidity conditions can help to prevent fungal growth and mycotoxin production.
  • Climate-resilient farming​ Implementing climate-resilient farming practices can help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns and can minimize the impact of extreme weather events on mycotoxin contamination.
  • Education and training​ Training farm personnel on mycotoxin awareness, prevention and management practices ensures that everyone is equipped to address the issue effectively.
  • Consult experts​ Working with veterinarians, nutritionists and mycotoxin experts is crucial to developing tailored strategies for mycotoxin control based on the specific needs of your ruminant operation.

Mycotoxin prevention with yeast cell wall extract

The findings of the study highlight the significant benefits of using YCWE to counteract the harmful effects of mycotoxins in laying hens. By improving egg production and weight, YCWE supports healthier flocks and more efficient egg production.

Poultry producers looking to enhance their operations should consider the many benefits of incorporating YCWE into their mycotoxin management strategies for better overall performance and higher returns.

Find out more on mycotoxin challenges and the performance of laying hens.