Select those that target your needs

If every feed additive delivered on its hype, feeding them all would keep pushing milk production up and up. However, that is not a realistic expectation. If only dairy cattle nutrition was that simple . . .

Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois, delivered, "An update on feed additives: Probiotics, yeast and niacin" during the monthly Hoard's Dairyman webinar on January 11. He covered a wide range of products, as well as an overview of their benefits.

There are times in an animal's life that can be more stressful and these are optimal times for probiotics. They include the liquid-feeding period for calves, the time right after weaning, stresses due to shipping or other handling, heat stress for all animals and the transition period. The benefits can include improved growth rates, enhanced feed efficiency, higher milk production and greater disease resistance (more immunity).

Managers need to look at their operation and determine what product(s) would work best for them. You need to look at what your facilities allow, what method of administration would be most logical and what benefits you're aiming for? While most additives are put in feed, some are added to water, and others are available in paste form or as a bolus or drench? Will you be selective on which animals receive the additives or is a blanket approach more appropriate for your situation?

Be sure to consider the track record of products you're considering. There are plenty of people with opinions who you come in contact with - your vet, feed consultants, A.I. personnel, feed salesmen and extension staff. Their insight plus verified research can mold the direction you will take. Give stronger consideration to products that are supported by controlled research. Be leery of product with only testimonials as support.

Once you decide to use an additive, monitor the results. Evaluate performance before and after the change (milk production, components, weigh-backs, displaced abomasums, and so forth) so you can see the changes with actual data and not a "feeling" that the cows are doing better. Once you are using a product, you should not stop there, but continue to keep abreast of new research information.

While much of the focus on additives is toward cows, Hutjens was very adamant that calves may be where the future interest in additives lies. Stimulating calves' immunity early will have long-term effects. Europe has taken the lead on this and many suppliers include probiotics in milk replacers. The thought is that preventing an illness (by boosting immunity) is better (for the animal, financially and consumer impressions) than treating it later with antibiotics.

Watch the archived webinar to learn about a bounty of feed additives. Lallemand Animal Nutrition (www.lallemandanimalnutrition) sponsored the January webinar.

Next month:
Amelia Woolums Have you ever wondered if the vaccines you administer are helping calf health on your operation? Or if there are vaccines you should start using to keep calves healthier? This webinar will review vaccines that are appropriate for calves and the factors that impact their effectiveness. Join us on Monday, February 8, at noon (Central time) as Mississippi State University's Amelia Woolums, D.V.M., presents "Getting the most bang for your vaccination dollar." Bring your questions!

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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.