Feed additives

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Performance minerals for better cow herds

Dairy and beef producers around the world face different challenges. Animal nutrition company Zinpro Corporation is active in finding nutritional ways to help make cows healthier and more productive. Russ Wyllie explains how this is done for their customer base in the Americas.

Russ Wyllie is responsible for the development and implementation of sales strategies and providing oversight to the sales teams in North America, Central America and South America for Zinpro Corporation. He joined the company in 2002. In this interview, he delves into the work that Zinpro is doing in the ruminant area regarding its mineral portfolio and what the current challenges are for dairy and beef producers around the world, with specific focus on animal operations in the Americas, particularly in the US.

Zinpro has developed programmes that provide a great deal of understanding and awareness of foot health in dairy and beef cattle feeding systems. Photo: Zinpro
Zinpro has developed programmes that provide a great deal of understanding and awareness of foot health in dairy and beef cattle feeding systems. Photo: Zinpro

Why are minerals so important for ruminants, and what are some of the landmark studies you are involved in?

“Over the last 45 years, there have been a great number of breakthrough studies showing how trace minerals, in the unique amino acid complex form that we manufacture, help to improve animal wellness and performance. For ruminants, three studies in particular come to mind. The first is research from Illinois State University on claw health, which to this day serves as the cornerstone study showing that nutrition from trace minerals, specifically ZINPRO® zinc methionine, can elevate an animal’s nutritional status to help improve claw health and integrity. A second landmark study is the research conducted by Dr Jim Nocek, Auburn, New York, that solidly established performance differences between feeding our Performance Minerals® and inorganic trace minerals in lactating dairy cattle. Not only did this research clearly define mineral source differences, but it also delineated animal health and performance when the diet contained a greater portion of our Performance Minerals in the form of zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt. A third landmark study is actually a series of research studies conducted on beef feedlot cattle by Dr John Brethour at the Hays Branch Agricultural Experiment Station, Kansas State University. This research established a consistent response to zinc nutrition for improved average daily gain and feed conversion. Through this work, proper zinc supplementation was first recognised as having a positive impact on the reduction of foot rot in beef cattle”.

What are the major challenges in the Americas ruminant sector, and how can your company help these producers?

“In dairy animals, the correlation between lameness and elevated somatic cell count (SCC) with reproduction failure is well established. Fortunately, by providing the trace minerals from our portfolio, livestock benefit from a higher plane of nutrition, which is key to immune cell production and activation, as well as positively affecting overall animal health. Proper nutrition can also aid in managing the stress and health of newly arrived cattle at the feedyard. Feeding Performance Minerals® in cattle-starter programmes has shown to result in more rapid mineral store repletion, resulting in a better health status. Healthy animals have improved immune responses and fewer required treatments and/or re-treatments, benefits which ultimately manifest in the animal as higher gains and better feed conversions at the end of the starter period. As cattle continue through the finishing phase, trace minerals play a key role in improving animal growth and feed efficiency. For the cow-calf sector, a major challenge that Zinpro has targeted is to improve cow herd efficiency. Multiple-year studies have captured measurements of reproduction, including post-calving interval and conception rates for both natural service and artificial insemination (AI) breeding programmes. The common thread through the studies, with an emphasis on reproduction, has been that proper trace mineral nutrition programmes can result in improved mineral nutrition that help cows return to ovarian function sooner. Other results from these studies include fewer days to first breeding, higher AI conception rates and shorter post-partum intervals”.

Russ Wyllie: “By providing the trace minerals from our portfolio, livestock benefit from a higher plane of nutrition, which is key to immune cell production and activation as well as positively affecting overall animal health”.

How has Zinpro translated these challenges into practical tools for producers?

“We have developed a number of tools and systems to evaluate production constraints and opportunities that result in substantial improvements in animal performance and production. We have a very comprehensive dairy lameness assessment programme for the industry (First Step®). Similarly, we have a programme that provides a great deal of understanding and awareness of foot health in the beef cattle feeding systems (Step-Up®). We also have a water-quality evaluation programme and other tools for other segments of the industry. These high-value programmes, in the hands of our talented sales and research teams, provide us with the opportunity to genuinely support our customers. Lameness, immunity, animal handling, management practices and animal well-being are areas where we have a wealth of information to provide education, support and solutions.

Another area of focus for us is Generational Nutrition®, the impact maternal nutrition has on the health and performance of the offspring. Recent research from Oregon State University demonstrated that supplying essential trace minerals from Zinpro to the beef cow during her third trimester of gestation resulted in heavier calf weaning weight and a lower percentage of calves diagnosed with respiratory disease as those calves moved to the next phase at the grower yard. At the end of the finishing period, those calves maintained a carcass advantage. This promising new area of research has the potential to capture the lifetime performance advantages with application of our minerals for cattle from conception through all phases of production. The environmental impact from animal production is also an area of opportunity. Nutrient management and efficiency is very important both from animal performance perspective and the consequential impact on the environment. At Zinpro, we are striving to achieve the ‘right’ level of mineral supplementation that will optimise animal performance, efficiency and profitability, while also optimising environmental stewardship”.

How has the consumer movement away from antibiotics impacted how Zinpro does business?

“The essentiality of zinc as an immune function component and for genetic expression doesn’t change as a result of the effort to reduce antibiotic use in the industry. What is known about zinc today is that it is essential to life and critically involved in thousands of biological processes. Focusing on the underlying nutrition, and trace minerals in general, provides a basis for improved health and immunity that will support a reduction in antibiotic therapies”.

How does the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) impact your customers?

“The Veterinary Feed Directive will impact all US producers in all species if they are using a medically important antibiotic. Zinpro currently has a long list of products that help the nutritional status of all species of animals. A better nutritional status and a healthier immune system will lead to healthier animals. Zinpro has been working with customers to emphasise that the basic role of using our minerals begins with nutrition. Nutritional status affects immunity as the foundation to improved animal wellness and performance. Research data has demonstrated the effective use of trace minerals to improve nutrition. Proper nutrition minimises negative stress effects, which ultimately allows for greater performance and higher economic returns for producers”.

Where do you see Zinpro expanding its products and services as you continue to grow in the Americas?

“Our company is committed to providing essential trace minerals for the production of healthy animals that contribute to a healthier, more sustainable world. Our research and product development efforts indicate that there is a tremendous opportunity for Zinpro to have a significant impact on improved food production efficiency, better environmental stewardship and increased food security; not just in the Americas, but all around the world”.

By John Pocock

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