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How can cattlemen combat higher feed costs? Feed their potential

Craig Belknap for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2021
Cattle at the feedbunk

High corn prices, byproduct costs and other feed expenses can create challenges for cattle feeders and the beef industry.

Prices have recently surged and are predicted to take a chomp out of 2021 profits in the upcoming future. In fact, in recent months corn prices jumped, hitting their highest level in more than seven years and triggering a pause in trading at the Chicago Board of Trade.

While feed costs may vary from year to year and from region to region, aside from the initial cost of the animal, feed represents the largest single expense within any operation.

As a result, it’s important producers seek solutions to help improve feed digestibility and utilization, eventually saving them money in the long run. While conventional feedlot operators have benefited from the use of ionophores, such as monensin, in the diet to help improve efficiency, there are also additional all-natural, science-based solutions that can be used either alongside ionophores, as well as in all-natural feedlot situations. These digestive and immune support products work through a different mode of action than ionophores to help ensure optimum ration utilization.

Incorporate a digestive and immune support product:

Feed digestibility – get more from your feed investment. Incorporating a digestive health and immune support product into cattle feed can provide multiple benefits such as supporting rumen fermentation and digestive efficiency. It can also help strengthen the immune system in situations where health challenges may arise, such as weaning, receiving, processing, heat stress, mycotoxin challenges and hoof health issues.

Manure piles show fecal comparison

Increasing the population of both starch- and fiber-utilizing bacteria within the rumen allows the animal to be more effective in turning feed into energy to be used for growth. Improved digestibility can result in better feed intake and utilization by the animal. With a digestive and immune support feed additive, you can help lessen the amount and size of undigested feed particles (such as corn) in the manure.

digestive results using an immune support feed additive

When it comes to digestibility, we’re ultimately looking at what the animal is able to digest and supply to the body for maintenance and growth. Starch, fiber, protein, fats and other nutrients are digested and metabolized by the animal to supply nutrients for growth, marbling and fat deposition. Remember, as digestibility is enhanced, less feed is needed for cattle to gain weight, resulting in better feed efficiency and oftentimes reduced cost of gain.

Feed efficiency, as measured by feed-to-gain ratio, is perhaps the most telling and real-world number when it comes to assessing feedstuff utilization and applying economics to the decision to include a supplement. Ultimately, we want to get the most out of our feed as possible. With a digestive and immune support product, you can help make this achievable for cattle.

How it works – the breakdown

Using a feed additive to help support digestive health and immune strength is foundational to ration utilization by balancing the rumen microbiota and optimizing the rumen environment. Within the rumen, there are many species of microorganisms, including bacteria, protozoa and fungi. These microorganisms play a key role in optimizing rumen function by producing enzymes that aid in digestion of dietary components such as fiber and starch.

Corn prices per bushel

A stable rumen environment is also important for proper digestibility of feed. This includes optimal rumen pH and balance of microorganisms for the diet being fed. When an animal’s rumen is functioning optimally, it has the right balance of microbiota (bacteria, protozoa and fungi) in a stable environment to digest feed more efficiently, making more energy, protein and other nutrients available to the animal. This will help improve ration digestibility and optimize gain and feed conversion, resulting in improvements in production and overall health.

Research-backed and stable

Work with your nutritionist to utilize a product that is backed by research and is stable across various situations. Reputable companies spend millions of dollars in researching their products to prove they work under a wide range of scenarios. The research behind these products give the producer confidence that it will work on his or her operation. Moreover, some products, such as fermentation products, are more stable and thus more reliable under a wider range of uses (such as inclusion in dry or liquid balancers, pelleted feeds, minerals, tubs, etc.).


As we look to the future, it appears as though high feed costs may be with us at least through much of 2021. It’s important to consider what steps can be taken to help overcome this challenge. By incorporating a digestive and immune support product into your feed, not only can you help your cattle be more efficient, but it could potentially help to decrease your feed bill and cost of gain. While this is of great value at any time, regardless of ration costs, it’s especially important at a time such as now when feed costs are being driven up by higher corn and byproduct prices. end mark

Craig Belknap
  • Craig Belknap

  • Business and Technical Manager
  • North America Beef
  • Diamond V
  • Email Craig Belknap