Like everything else, feed additives should be evaluated for their specific return on investment in your rations. And, as circumstances change, their benefits should be reevaluated.
Record high feed costs certainly qualify as "changed circumstances.” At first glance, you might think it's time to take all additives out of the ration to reduce cost. But the relative cost of many feed additives compared to current grain and forage prices is less now than it was a year ago.
So, it might be time to take another look at the cost effectiveness of proven feed additives in your ration. The key word is "proven” feed additives: those with sound research behind them.
If a feed additive helps get more out of your feeding program--better feed efficiency, more milk, higher protein or butterfat, better reproduction or improved cow health--and the relative cost of that additive is less now because of higher feed prices, then the cost:benefit ratio will be greater. That could help your bottom line.
Organic mineral companies, for example, who supply zinc methionine, proteinates and other organic mineral complexes have held prices pretty stable so far. They've done so even though most inorganic mineral prices have soared in the past year.
Copper, manganese, zinc and cobalt prices have all risen substantially. This makes organic complexes of these minerals better relative buys than a year ago. Organic sources tend to be more available to the cow.
Organic selenium or selenium yeast have actually gone down in price, while vitamin E prices have increased dramatically. Selenium helps regenerate antioxidants like vitamin A and C. It may have a sparing effect on the antioxidant properties of vitamin E, so feeding 3 mg. of selenium from organic selenium may reduce the need for expensive vitamin E.
Yeast prices have also remained relatively stable, while corn has almost doubled in the last few months. If yeast helps increase fiber digestibility, feed efficiency or milk production, that 5¢/cow spent for yeast is a better purchase now than a year ago.
A major yeast product company recently used a meta-analysis to summarize many different published trials feeding their yeast product. The average overall response was about 2 lb/cow increase in milk production. Those two pounds of milk are worth more now too, so the return on investment for yeast products is greater than a year ago.
The price of Rumensin has gone up about 3% in the last year; not much when compared to overall feed cost. Rumensin has been shown to increase feed efficiency. Any increase in feed efficiency is worth more when feed prices are higher.
Other proven feed additives, especially those that improve the efficiency of feed utilization or milk production efficiency may also deserve another look. Silage inoculants that reduce losses during fermentation and storage can also be more beneficial with higher forage prices.
Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You are reading an extended version of the Nutrition column that ran in the June/July issue of Dairy Today.
- June/July 2008