Despite all the talk from feed salespersons and extension specialists estimates are that less than 25% of beef producers in southwest Missouri use ionophores in beef rations.
According to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, ionophores are antimicrobial compounds that modify microbial fermentation in the rumen.
"Another way of putting it is, through this action they allow cattle to get more energy from the feed they eat. This involves changing the types of fatty acids produced in the animal's rumen," said Cole. "Ionophores reduce the breakdown of protein in the rumen and results overall in a reduction in methane production."
Ionophores are not new; they go back to the 1950's when they were used first as a coccidiostat in the poultry industry. They became a popular beef feed additive in the 1970's especially in the feedlot sector of the industry.
A popular feed additive
More recently, ionophores have become a popular feed additive in stocker and cow-calf programs.
"Anyone feeding a concentrate supplement to their beef cattle should investigate the cost and form they can obtain the ionphore in," said Cole.
Emphasis was placed on the feed savings from an ionophore in 2012 when feed cost and availability were a major concern due to the drought.
"We have improved the supply of forage and reduced the cost of feed this year but the savings and gain improvement are still available from a properly used ionophore," said Cole.
Ionophores improve feed conversion 5 to 10%. Rate of gain is improved around 5%. Improvement in performance from an ionophore and a growth promoting implant is additive.
"That means when both are used you'll see a greater increase in performance than when either is used alone. This is especially helpful for stocker operators," said Cole.
Ionophores may be fed in a variety of forms such as meal mixes, cubes, tubs and liquids. Some mineral mixes include ionophores but intake may not be as consistent as desired.
"They should be fed daily and as always, follow label instructions. The added cost is minimal when you consider the improved performance they can give," said Cole. "Visit your feed suppliers about the cost and forms of ionophores they have available."
Source: University of Missouri Extension