"Stretch", "Bootstrap", "Get creative" - call it what you like, but it's a common mantra on farms and ranches to get the most return out of the resources available. And with drought conditions taking hold across Midwest and Southwestern states, many producers are looking for ways to maintain calf gains while also protecting their forages.
Feed additives may be the answer, suggests Jay W. Johnson, a technical service nutritionist with Huvepharma. Based in Texas, Johnson's expertise includes feedlot systems, cow-calf management and preconditioning cattle for grazing.
Johnson explains that feed additives with the active ingredient bambermycins can help improve feed efficiency and gain performance among calves or stockers on high roughage diets. He notes that bambermycins are designed to help pull more nutrients out of the forages consumed so the microorganisms or "bugs" within a bovine's rumen can more efficiently convert the forage to energy for growth and gain.
"If you are running stockers on grass or cereal grains or if you are preconditioning calves on pasture or a high roughage diet where there's not a lot of starch, bambermycins feed additives are going to provide more pounds of gain with less grass utilized," says Johnson. He shares that feed additives can help add up to 10.5% more gain/head per day over time, and notes that even adding 7 - 10 pounds per head to 100 head of calves or stockers calculates to extra weight that will produce extra revenue to the producer.
And he adds, "When feeding medium to low-quality forages - especially in a drought situation - the use of these feed additives becomes even more important to optimize calf gains."
Additionally, Johnson points out that when calves and stockers are able to utilize the energy from feed nutrients for gain, they are also more likely to maintain health, which is critically important to future performance as they transition to feedlot settings. "The bottom line is that healthier animals gain better," says Johnson.
As an added benefit, inclusion of the feed additive monensin can help prevent coccidiosis among calf and stocker groups, according to Johnson. "The parasite that causes coccidiosis is opportunistic and can really become a problem during times of stress, such as shipping and weaning."
Johnson also suggests that for producers striving to maintain body condition of cows and heifers on forages, these feed additives can help stretch forage resources and maintain feed efficiency.
"With body condition so critical for rebreeding and even ease of calving, it's important to consider these feed additive tolls as forage resources become limited," emphasizes Johnson.
Bambermycins and monensin feed additives are to be fed as a mix in with other manufactured feedstuffs.