Over the last 12 months, you’ve probably been weighing the pros and cons of your ration ingredients, including feed additives.
There isn’t an exact formula to evaluate whether a feed additive will work on your operation and provide a financial return. But there are a number of things that you can look at that will help you decide, and minimize the risk of a feed additive not working.
Some important considerations:
• Evaluate expected response. What performance change should you expect from the feed additive you are considering? Feed additives can do a whole host of things, such as increase milk yield, raise milk components, improve dry matter intake, stimulate rumen microbial growth, increase digestion, stabilize rumen environment and pH, improve feed efficiency, minimize weight loss, reduce heat stress effects and/or improve health.
• Learn how the additive works. It’s important to understand the feed additive’s mode of action. If you understand a feed additive’s mode of action, you can reduce the possibility of overlap between it and other additives.
• Beware of testimonials. Testimonials are not research.
• Analyze the research. University research is the most unbiased and typically published in peer-reviewed journals. On-farm research performed by a company is not as unbiased, but it can still be good research, says Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus of dairy science at the University of Illinois. A meta-analysis comprising the results of many research trials has become the gold standard.
• Decide if it works. Consider more than the bulk tank when deciding if an additive works or not. Look at milk components, body condition, reproduction, herd health profiles, hoof health and heifer growth charts. Don’t forget there is often a lag time. Some products can take several weeks to have an effect, while other responses are immediate.