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Calibrin®-A Safeguards Ducklings and Broiler Chicks Against Aflatoxin

Young animals (e.g., ducklings and broiler chicks) are particularly susceptible to the harmful and production-limiting effects of aflatoxins. Therefore, it’s important for producers to have preventative tactics in place to reduce the risk of aflatoxicosis in their flock. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that an all-natural mineral-based feed additive, Calibrin®-A (available in select international markets), can help ameliorate the effects of aflatoxin on ducklings and broiler chicks when fed from hatch.

Biochemical and Biological Aflatoxin Effects

Aflatoxins are produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus. Multiple metabolite forms are produced by Aspergillus, including B1, B2, G1 and G2, with aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) the most common and potent cause of aflatoxicosis. In the right environment, typically hot and humid conditions, aflatoxins can be produced in Aspergillus-contaminated feed.

Subclinical cases of aflatoxicosis generally cause reduced weight gain and productivity, while more severe cases can cause liver damage, immunosuppressive effects, gastrointestinal dysfunction and mortality. Various biological and biochemical parameters can be measured to determine the effects aflatoxin has on the body, including growth performance, intestinal morphology, serum biochemistry and oxidative stress.

A Natural Aflatoxin Binder

These same biological and biochemical parameters can also be used to assess the efficacy of feed additives, like all-natural Calibrin-A, in protecting animals against the harmful and profit-limiting effect of aflatoxins. Calibrin-A rapidly adsorbs polar mycotoxins like aflatoxin, ergotamine and ergovaline, due to a combination of its natural properties and Amlan’s proprietary thermal processing technique. By binding aflatoxin in the gut, Calibrin-A prevents aflatoxin from being absorbed into the bloodstream and exerting its toxic effects.

The effectiveness of Calibrin-A in protecting young birds, and therefore producers’ profits, has been reported in a number of peer-reviewed journal articles and scientific conference presentations, three of which are described below.

Calibrin-A Alleviates Aflatoxin Effects in Ducklings

Two papers, one published in the Journal of Applied Poultry Research and the other in Poultry Science, reported the biological and biochemical effects of aflatoxin (AFB1, from naturally contaminated corn) on ducklings from 1 to 21 days of age. The first report looked at four diets (with and without aflatoxin, with and without Calibrin-A) and the effects of these diets on hematology and serum biochemistry.1 To look at the effects of aflatoxin on growth performance and liver and intestinal health, the second report used the results from the first study, as well as four additional treatments that used two lower concentrations of aflatoxin (eight treatments total, Table 1). 2

Table 1: Aflatoxin concentration of “clean” and naturally contaminated corn-based diets fed to ducklings with or without Calibrin-A.

Two control diets containing “clean” corn, with and without 0.1% Calibrin-A, were used in the experiment to determine if Calibrin-A had any negative effects on growth performance. The control diets did have detectable levels of aflatoxin; however, they were considered “clean” because these concentrations were below the tolerable level of aflatoxin contamination (20 ug/kg) set by some regulators. Despite careful ingredient selection, the control diets did have aflatoxin contamination, which demonstrates the importance of having a risk-management strategy in place to prevent mycotoxin-related health and performance issues in your flock.

Feeding 0.1% Calibrin-A in the clean diet did not change the feed conversion ratio with values of 1.59 and 1.57 for 0 and 0.1% Calibrin-A, respectively.1 This indicates that adding Calibrin-A to the ration did not interfere with the digestibility and utilization of nutrients needed for normal growth.1

The high aflatoxin diet had lower average daily gain (ADG) compared to the Calibrin-A clean diet and greater mortality compared to negative control clean diet.2 Increasing the amount of contaminated corn had a linear, quadratic or both effect on reducing ADG and increasing mortality. However, Calibrin-A decreased mortality irrespective of the contaminated-corn concentration, and the variability in growth that significantly increased at the 50 and 100% aflatoxin level in the second report was also alleviated by the addition of Calibrin-A.2

As expected, aflatoxin caused intestinal damage, indicated by the decrease in the villus-crypt ratio as aflatoxin concentration increased in the diet.2 It’s likely this caused interference with digestion and absorption of nutrients and contributed to the decreased average daily gain and bodyweight in ducklings fed the highest concentration of aflatoxin compared to the Calibrin-A control.1 Calibrin-A had a positive effect in the intestine by improving villus height and villus-crypt ratio in the duodenum and jejunum versus diets with no Calibrin-A.2

Analysis of liver enzymes indicated that serious liver damage also occurred in the high aflatoxin group. Creatine kinase, alanine transaminase and aspartate transaminase significantly decreased and alkaline phosphatase activity increased compared to the negative control clean diet, but the addition of Calibrin-A to the high aflatoxin diet neutralized these effects.1 All serum metabolites measured decreased in the high aflatoxin diet compared to clean diet; however, Calibrin-A improved serum metabolite concentrations.1

In the high aflatoxin group compared to the negative control clean diet, hepatoxicity was indicated by significantly decreased antioxidant defense systems — serum superoxide dismutase activity and serum and liver glutathione peroxidase activities — but they were improved with the addition of Calibrin-A to the diet.1 Serum and liver malondialdehyde concentration (an oxidative stress and liver damage marker) was also increased in the high aflatoxin group compared to the clean control, but Calibrin-A was able to prevent the increase.1

In these studies, feeding 0.1% Calibrin-A alleviated the aflatoxin-induced effects of reduced growth performance, increased mortality, liver damage, increased oxidative stress and impaired intestinal morphology of ducklings.

Calibrin-A Improves Aflatoxin-Challenged Broiler Performance

In a 21-day study at the University of Missouri, 320 day-old male broiler chicks (eight treatments, with eight replicate pens of five chicks per treatment) were fed diets with and without various concentrations of aflatoxin and Calibrin-A in the diet (Table 2).3

Table 2: Broiler chicks were assigned to one of eight treatments, with or without aflatoxin and with or without Calibrin-A.

Broilers challenged with aflatoxin (2 or 3 ppm) and fed either 0.25 or 0.5% Calibrin-A, had significantly greater body weight gain and feed intake compared to the aflatoxin-challenged controls (2 or 3 ppm aflatoxin; P < 0.05; Figure 1). At 2 ppm aflatoxin, both Calibrin-A concentrations also significantly reduced relative liver weight compared to the 2 ppm aflatoxin control (P < 0.05). No other groups were significantly different, although at 3 ppm aflatoxin, both Calibrin-A groups were numerically lower than the aflatoxin control (Figure 2).

This study confirmed that the addition of 0.5% Calibrin-A to the ration did not negatively affect broiler performance. Feed intake, body weight gain and feed conversion were not different between the negative control and 0.5% Calibrin-A, and neither were serum albumin, globulin, total protein, calcium or glucose concentrations.


Figure 1: Calibrin-A included at 0.25 and 0.5% had significantly greater body weight gain and feed intake compared to the mycotoxin control fed at either 2 ppm or 3 ppm (P < 0.05).

Figure 2: At 2 ppm aflatoxin, both Calibrin-A concentrations significantly reduced relative liver weight compared to the positive control (P < 0.05).


These studies show that Calibrin-A is a safe and effective solution for managing the toxic effects of aflatoxin in ducklings and broiler chicks — without interfering with nutrient utilization required for normal growth. For more details about these studies or to learn more about Calibrin-A, contact your local Amlan sales representative.



  1. Li, Y, Liu YH, Yang ZB, Wan XL and Chi F. The efficiency of clay enterosorbent to ameliorate the toxicity of aflatoxin B1 from contaminated corn (Zea mays) on hematology, serum biochemistry, and oxidative stress in ducklings. J Appl Poult Res. 2012; 21:806–815.
  2. Wan, XL, Yang ZB, Yang WR, Jiang SZ, Zhang GG, Johnston SL and Chi F. Toxicity of increasing aflatoxin B1 concentrations from contaminated corn with or without clay adsorbent supplementation in ducklings. Poult Sci. 2013; 92:1244–1253.
  3. Ledoux DR, Rottinghaus GE, Bermudez, AJ and Broomhead, J. Efficacy of the adsorbent Calibrin-A in ameliorating the toxic effects of aflatoxin in broiler chicks. Presented at International Poultry Scientific Forum, Atlanta, GA.


Rapidly Adsorb Aflatoxins and Improve Poultry Performance with Calibrin-A

Calibrin-A White Broilers

Mitigating the effects of mycotoxin-contaminated feed is a goal of every poultry producer in order to keep birds healthy and reduce the negative effects of mycotoxicosis on performance. Aflatoxin is a common threat to poultry productivity, targeting and damaging the liver and causing mortality in severe cases. Subclinical cases can reduce feed intake, weight gain and efficiency, which negatively impact the cost of production and, ultimately, profits.

Aflatoxin is a polar or hydrophilic (water-loving) mycotoxin, which means it and other polar mycotoxins, like ergotamine, ergovaline and cyclopiazonic acid (CPA), are attracted to hydrophilic surfaces. Calibrin®-A (available in select international markets) is a mineral-based feed additive that rapidly adsorbs these polar mycotoxins due to its hydrophilic binding sites. If mycotoxin diagnostic tests (e.g., BioInsights) detect feed is contaminated with polar mycotoxins, Calibrin-A is an effective solution for reducing performance loss.

The Calibrin-A Difference

Calibrin-A contains one ingredient — our single-source calcium montmorillonite with opal CT lepispheres. We select our calcium montmorillonite from a specific location within our mine to ensure product consistency, quality and reliability for customers. We’re very specific about where we source our mineral, because of its natural physical and chemical properties. We also use proprietary mineral processing methods that are tailored for each product. These unique properties are what create the difference between Calibrin-A and other clay binders in the market. Calibrin-A naturally adsorbs polar mycotoxins and is designed to have a high particle count and increased access to hydrophilic binding sites. The combination of natural mineral characteristics and processing techniques creates a highly effective, fast-acting feed additive for binding polar mycotoxins.

Rapid Polar Mycotoxin Adsorption Is Key

Eliminating the fast uptake of mycotoxins into the digestive system is key to preventing the negative health and performance effects of mycotoxicosis. Mycotoxins quickly metabolize in the intestines and liver and can circulate in the blood for days or weeks. While certain toxins enter the body more quickly than others, the negative effects consistently result in decreased performance and unrealized economic potential. Calibrin-A rapidly adsorbs polar mycotoxins, reducing their bioavailability in the body and mitigating performance loss (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Calibrin-A rapidly adsorbs aflatoxin. Source: Trilogy Analytical Laboratory, USA.

Calibrin-A Improves Performance of Aflatoxin-Fed Broilers

The impact rapid aflatoxin adsorption by Calibrin-A has on bird productivity was shown in two broiler studies. In research conducted at the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO), Calibrin-A abated the detrimental effects of aflatoxin-contaminated feed on broiler health and performance. The study compared a control diet to diets containing 2 ppm of aflatoxin, with or without 0.5% Calibrin-A, fed to day-old Ross 308 chicks for 21 days.

As expected, aflatoxin in the feed caused decreased (P < 0.05) feed intake, weight gain and feed efficiency, and increased (P > 0.05) relative liver weight compared to control birds. The liver is the main target of aflatoxin if it enters the body from the intestine. Aflatoxin will cause the liver to swell and it can become “fatty” with a yellow appearance. The swollen liver and decreased weight gain causes increased relative liver weight.

Adding Calibrin‑A to the diet of birds fed aflatoxin improved weight gain and feed efficiency (Figure 2), and reduced the mycotoxin-induced increase in relative liver weight (Figure 3). Mortality rate of the control and Calibrin-A-fed birds (2.5%) was lower than the aflatoxin-fed birds (10%).

Figure 2: Calibrin-A improved weight gain and feed efficiency in broilers fed aflatoxin-contaminated feed (P < 0.05).

Figure 3: Calibrin-A reduced the mycotoxin-induced increase in relative liver weight (P > 0.05).

In a study conducted at SAMITEC (Santa Maria, Brazil), four groups of male broiler chicks (6 reps x 10 chicks each) received a diet with or without aflatoxin (2.8 ppm) and with or without 0.5% Calibrin-A (CON, AFL, CON + Calibrin-A, AFL + Calibrin-A). Calibrin-A improved (P < 0.05) the feed intake and body weight of birds fed aflatoxin (Figures 4 and 5) and reduced (P < 0.05) the average liver weight of birds fed aflatoxin (Figure 6). Additionally, adding Calibrin-A to the control diet (no aflatoxin) at 10 times the recommended dose had no negative effects on growth performance (Figures 4 and 5), indicating that Calibrin-A does not significantly interfere with nutrient use.

In order to achieve statistical significance between the challenged and non-challenged birds, a much higher concentration of aflatoxin was used in both studies than would typically be seen in poultry diets. Because birds were challenged with a high amount of aflatoxin, Calibrin-A was also included at a higher dose than typically recommended. The ratio of Calibrin-A to aflatoxin in the feed was 2500:1 (5000 ppm Calibrin-A and 2 ppm aflatoxin) for the University of Missouri study, for example, which is equivalent to the recommended inclusion rate of Calibrin-A (500 ppm) and 0.2 ppm of aflatoxin in the feed. This amount of aflatoxin is still higher than the concentration typically found in poultry feed.

Figure 4: Calibrin-A increased feed intake in birds fed aflatoxin (P < 0.05).

Figure 5: Calibrin-A increased the average weight of birds fed aflatoxin to a weight similar to control birds (P < 0.05).

Figure 6: Calibrin-A decreased the average liver weight of birds fed aflatoxin (P < 0.05).

These studies demonstrate the performance and health benefits of feeding Calibrin-A to rapidly adsorb polar mycotoxins like aflatoxin. Single-ingredient, mineral-based Calibrin-A is an effective solution to mitigating the risk of mycotoxicosis from aflatoxin-contaminated feed. To learn more about Calibrin-A or to try Calibrin-A for yourself, contact your local sales representative.