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Dairy and beef producers striving to remain profitable as feed costs soar are being encouraged to adopt a similar strategy to pig and poultry...

• Careful diet formulation important

• Use feed additives for digestibility

• Cost effective solution is possible

Dairy and beef producers striving to remain profitable as feed costs soar are being encouraged to adopt a similar strategy to pig and poultry producers.

Feed additives can make diets more cost effective and flexible, replicating the approach taken in monogastric diet formulation, says Mark McFarland (below), feed additive product manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

“Fine tuning ruminant diets with proven feed additives such as live yeasts could help increase milk or meat production per kilogram (kg) of feed or support lower cost rations while maintaining productivity,” says Mr McFarland.

Several feed additives have been accepted for decades for improving the productive value of commercial feeds in the pig and poultry sector, he adds. But the use of additives in the ruminant sector is much less consistent.

“The use of enzymes for example, are a routine part of monogastric ration formulation that offer flexibility in formulating least cost diets. Similar benefits are to be had from using feed additives such as live yeasts in ruminant rations, but this is not currently standard practice.”

Innovative formulation

Mr McFarland says the dairy and beef sector could benefit greatly from more innovative ration formulation that supports least and iso-cost diets. That’s because up to 75% of feed is digested in the rumen, where the right microbial balance can make a significant difference.

Feed additives that favourably modify the rumen environment can therefore be an incredibly useful tool to optimise ruminant diet formulation he says, although advises selecting those that have robust scientific backing.

“The effects and modes of action of the live yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 on rumen microbiota have been extensively studied. The main benefits shown include stabilising ruminal pH, increasing fibre degradation and digestibility, and speeding up rumen maturity.

Research suggests that Saccharomyces cerevisiae can increase the neutral detergent fibre digestibility of forage by 3-8 units, depending on the type of forage and its own degradability, says Mr McFarland.

One barrier to better utilising feed additives in ruminant ration formulation has been a difficulty in predicting the nutritional value they carry. But Mr McFarland says progress has been made in model refinements by including biological and dynamic pathways for ruminant digestion.

“These non-linear refined models provide a path for innovative diet formulation, offering opportunities to fine-tune the prediction of the nutritional values of diets, including potential sub-models for a rumen modifier,” he explains.

“The improved accuracy in formulation this offers, makes feed additives such as live yeasts an increasingly valuable tool for ruminant nutritionists, especially as feed prices continue to escalate,” Mr McFarland concludes.