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What's With All These Additives? Fix the Fundamentals First!

There are many additives fed to improve or alter rumen function and gut health.  Yeast cultures, prebiotics, probiotics and fermentation extracts of these compounds are gaining more attention and finding more application.  Others include types of seaweed compounds (Tasco®), phytogenic compounds such as essential oils, garlic, oregano etc.

Some additives are promoted to improve fiber digestibility of low quality forage and the mode of action is not clear.  Some are widely researched, some are not, and the data that is available is varying.  The benefit of many of these additives may be found more so with microflora balance, gut health, and immunity vs diet digestibility.   

As more attention and regulations are applied to reduce or restrict the use of antibiotics in feeding strategies, these additive technologies will be more applicable, probably more so for digestive health and immunity vs forage utilization.  We have many of these additive technologies available from our parent company Alltech and are constantly evaluating their practicality and efficacy in CRYSTALYX®.   We’ve had great results in using CRYSTALYX® to deliver such products as Bio-Mos® with cows at calving and calves at weaning.  So there is and will be a place for these in additives in CRYSTALYX®   We also have a product that includes Tasco® that’s mentioned in the research below.  CRYSTALYX® is a great delivery system to feed not only these additives but any and all nutrients.

North Dakota State University conducted a study in 2005 where two of these additives were compared on the influence of digestibility when fed with CRYSTALYX®.  Both Tasco® and Amaferm® (Aspergillus Oryzae) were compared when formulated into a 40% Crude Protein CRYSTALYX® block vs feeding the block alone, or the block plus an Amaferm® bolus.  What was found was that the Amaferm® did not necessarily improve forage fiber digestibility above and beyond what could be accomplished with CRYSTALYX® alone, however adding Tasco®, did have an additive effect on NDF digestibility.

Dry Matter Intake

Dry Matter Intake


NDF Digestibility

NDF Digestibility

Leupp et.al., J. Anim. Sci. 2005 83:2938-2945

NDF Digestibility was significantly improved when a CRYSTALYX® block was fed with low quality forage. Adding Aspergillus Oryzae (Amaferm®) showed slight improvement when used with CRYSTALYX® but Tasco® showed a significant difference.

The Take Home Message

Satisfy the protein needs first.  Stick with CRYSTALYX® products like BGF-30™, HP-40™, on late season forages and crop residues this fall.

Certain additives may have some merit in improving the utilization of low quality forages, however protein is the first limiting nutrient with these types of roughages and cannot be overlooked.  Rumen bacteria need nitrogen to thrive, reproduce, and function to be effective in breaking down fiber.  They derive this Nitrogen from soluble protein in the diet.  Sources of this protein come from feed ingredients such as soybean meal, urea, cottonseed meal and others that you’ll find in many supplemental feeds.  Likely, the best economical response is going to be from a supplement like CRYSTALYX® which offers free-choice, continuous nutrient delivery.

Producers who have used various additives often attribute any good results to only the additive, when in fact, that additive may have been delivered via a protein supplement.  Odds are, the protein had more of an effect on the performance than did just the additive. Furth more, processing methods in manufacturing supplements could have negative effects on the additive compound. 

Many CRYSTALYX® product not only provides protein but serves as an energy facilitator as well; part in part due to better forage digestibility which increases forage intake, which increases caloric intake by the cow.  CRYSTALYX® also comes with a complete vitamin and mineral package added.   All of this can be fed for $0.30 - $0.35 per head per day and with very little if any labor, waste or delivery cost -- another selling point.   

In it for the long haul

This may be a year where forage supplies will be adequate going into fall, grain and energy feeds will be affordable, and calves will be less.  Still, there is a lot of investment in our cow herd right now.  A lot of inventory was purchased or raised with a much higher dollar value and we need that inventory to provide a return.  Now is when we need to make every dollar count and make it return.

I’ve been hearing more negative comments about the markets than I care to.  Still, I understand the bemoaning as livestock and crop producers have seen better days. We often hear that we need to plan and or prepare for the challenges in our business.  This is true for any business and every year comes with a challenge of some sort.  It’s going to be tempting to cut or try to rationalize the value of a good nutrition program.  Sacrificing quality usually cost more than it saves at some point. With the conditions being what they are, supplement strategies need to not forget some basic fundamentals.   CRYSTALYX® serves those fundamentals the best!