News last update:6 Aug 2012

"Feed additive use needs reconsideration"

Feeding additives to dairy cows is often worth the money. However, you need to look at additives as a proper enhancing opportunity, rather than fixing a problem or minimizing return losses, said Michael Hutjens, University of Illinois, Urbana, Extension dairy specialist in the latest Farm & Ranch guide.

You may be considering monensin to improve feed efficiency for lactating cows or using probiotics for calves, but no matter what the additive, the dairy producer needs to have a strategy for when he or she will use it. "If the dairy farmers puts monesin in the ration because the butterfat component went down - that's a management issue, not a feed additive issue", says Hutjens. "The monesin is the canary in the rumen, and monensin is simply going to point out to you that you are in trouble." Look at additives as an enhancing opportunity rather than fixing a problem or minimizing return losses, he added.

Other ways to reduce feed costs
Hutjens says the best economic value comes from feeding monensin or zinc methionine with returns on investment of 14 to 1. However, the dairy producer may also be able to get a break using less expensive soybean meal. Raising hay for less than you can buy it is another way to reduce feed costs. Distiller's dried grains with solubles can also bring feed costs down. "If you're not feeding distillers, then obviously you are a rich farmer, because you don't want to keep your feed costs down," Hutjens said.

Feed additives may play an important function
Hutjens encourages producers to reconsider the function of each feed additive. For instance, cows may need bi-carb - and more than they needed it five years ago - because they are eating more than they did five years ago. Here are the feed additives that Hutjens recommends for dairy cows:
- Yeast culture for transition cows to stimulate fiber-digesting bacteria, stabilize the rumen environment and utilize lactic acid
- Propylene glycol for drenching cows before calving
- Calcium propionate before calving for increased blood glucose and calcium levels
- Anionic salts to increase blood calcium levels
- Protected choline to minimize fatty liver formation and improve fat mobilization in heavy cows
- Bacterial direct-fed microbes to milk or milk replacer fed calves to improve dry matter intake and health
- Silage bacterial inoculants to increase feed digestibility and dry matter recovery
- Protected niacin to improve the energy balance in early lactation cows
- Monensin to improve feed efficiency in lactating cows
- Sodium bicarbonate for early and mid-lactating cows to increase dry matter intake and stabilize rumen pH
- Organic selenium for improved health and immune function
- Biotin for hoof health and higher milk yield
- Organic zinc for hoof health and lower somatic cell count

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