Are Feed Additives Feeding Your Bottom line?

As a producer, you have probably heard every possible sales pitch on various additives and why they are the best. That can be confusing especially if you are unsure about what to use and why.

There are hundreds of different feed additives from numerous companies in the nutrition industry. Producers must approach feed additives by considering the return on their investment. If a feed additive increases production costs without demonstrating a positive impact or outcome, why use it?

A wide array of feed additives is available to poultry producers. Enzymes, toxin and mold inhibitors, coccidiostats, and antibiotic alternatives are categories of feed additives that producers have likely heard about or are currently using.

The function of enzymes in nature is to help speed up reactions. Enzymes help break down anti-nutritional factors such as soybean meal in certain feedstuffs, leaving them more readily available and digestible for the animal. They can be used in the ration to get more out of less! Feeding enzymes can help producers save money on other ingredients and allow birds to get more from the diet, thus putting more money in the pocket of producers and less waste from the bird. Considering the number of companies with enzymes on the market, the key to making the right choice is research. Look for the product with proven results backed up by tests and research. Enzymes can pay you back what they are worth if you choose the right one and use them properly in your diets.

Several different toxins can be present in feed, and each of them could have negative effects on your flocks. One of them is mycotoxin binders. Toxins in feed are details that often get overlooked most years. However, high levels of toxins in grain can negatively impact the operation’s success by degrading the overall health and growth performance of birds. With many different mycotoxin binder products on the market, it is imperative to research effectiveness to determine which is worth the investment. Some of these binders are primarily clay products, while others contain additives that help your birds. Binder prices vary dramatically, which is why you should consider inclusion
amounts and the overall return on your investment.

One of the biggest challenges poultry producers face is coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is expensive to the poultry industry due to bird morbidity and mortality. Producers can realize losses from the long-term effects as coccidiosis dampens flocks early on and stifles growth after a cocci challenge presents. For this reason, I feel coccidiostats is one of the most important feed additives. If your production method allows for the use of coccidiostats, I recommend you consider using them. The active ingredient in coccidiostats helps prevent cocci breakouts in your birds. However, there are cases where flocks fed coccidiostats and yet broke with cocci. While there is no guarantee of disease prevention, the odds of an outbreak are greatly diminished by adding a coccidiostat. As there are few different coccidiostats options to choose from, my recommendation is to rotate them to avoid the buildup of resistance in your flocks. Coccidiostats provide a major return on your investment as a prevention policy in your operations. If you are not using them in your feed, I recommend discussing them with your feed specialist to find out how to get started.

The trend in the industry seems to be “antibiotic-free” operations. Phytogenics are feed additives that serve as antibiotic alternatives and have become a staple in the poultry industry. They include essential oils, pro and pre-biotics, and yucca products. While some of these are effective and have their place, I would consider many on the market to be “gimmicks.” As there are multiple claims on these products, producers should do their research and thoroughly test them. While I agree with using these types of products, the producer should ensure that what they are using is worth the investment. There are phytogenic feed additive products that provide benefits to gut health and overall bird performance. The challenge is to identify the products that help your birds and show a return on your investment.

I often hear questions about the cost-effectiveness of feed additives to nutrition programs, how producers will know that a feed additive will work for them and how they can measure any added performance. The best way to answer these questions is to personally test the additives. Your operation is unique, and what works for others may not work best for you. Remember that added costs must benefit your operation’s bottom line, or they are just that – added costs. Feed additives can be great to include in your diets; however, make sure you are getting your money’s worth!