calendar icon 3 December 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

This toxin called F2 is produced by a strain of Fusarium graminearum which appears in corn (maize). It is an oestrogenic toxin and it is produced in high moisture environments in maize growing areas well before harvest. Rectal and vagina prolapses are common symptoms in the young growing stock.

Clinical signs

The most striking clinical feature is the swollen red vulva of immature gilts. The other signs are dependent up on the levels present in the feed and the state of pregnancy. The following may be used as guidelines to the symptoms that may be observed.

  • Boars - Semen may be affected with feed levels above 30ppm but not fertility. At higher levels poor libido, oedema of the prepuce and loss of hair may occur.
  • Gilts (Pre puberty) 1 - 6 months of age - 1 to 5ppm in feed causes swelling and reddening of the vulva and enlargement of the teats and mammary glands. Rectal and vagina prolapses also occur in the young growing stock.
  • Gilts (mature) - 1 to 3ppm will cause variable lengths of the oestrus cycle due to retained corpora lutea and infertility.
  • Sows - Levels of 5 to 10ppm can cause anoestrus, which may also be associated with pseudo pregnancy due to the retention of corpus luteum. F2 toxin will not normally
  • cause abortion however. If sows are exposed during the period of implantation litter size may be reduced. In lactation piglets may develop enlarged vulva.
  • Effects on pregnancy - Embryo survival to implantation does not appear to be affected at levels less than 30ppm but above this complete loss between implantation and thirty days occurs followed by pseudo pregnancies. Low levels of 3 to 5ppm do not appear to affect the mid part of pregnancy, but in the latter stages piglet growth in utero is depressed, with weak splay-legged piglets born. Some of these may have enlarged vulvas.
  • Effects on lactation - 3 to 5ppm has no effect on lactation but the weaning to service interval may be extended.


The clinical signs are distinctive. Rations that are suspected of contamination should be examined both for the presence of zearalenone and also other oestrogen like substances. Removal of the suspect feed will be followed by the regression of symptoms within three to four weeks.


  • None is required provided the toxin source is removed.
  • Sows that are in deep anoestrus may respond to injections of prostaglandins.

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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