What do we feed a cow? Cows can make milk from grass. A cow can produce more milk when they are fed ingredients with more energy. Do cows produce more milk with feed additives? The basic ingredients of a ration fed to a cow are alfalfa, silage and corn grain. These ingredients together contribute fiber, protein, energy and calcium for the cow. Other feedstuffs can be added to better balance the ration, lower the feed cost and may produce more milk. Many of the feedstuffs are byproducts.

Examples of these byproducts are canola, distillers grains, wheat millrun, beet pulp, hominy and fat. The goals of a successful feeding program are to optimize milk production, promote desirable milk components, maximize bacterial protein, increase dry matter intake (DMI) and produce nutrients for mammary gland synthesis.

Can feed additives help? Some feed additives contain nutrients such as sodium (in buffers) or protein (in yeast cultures). Feed additives are feed ingredients that cause a desired animal response in a non-nutrient role such as pH shift, growth or metabolic modification. Feed additives are not required and do not guarantee increased production or profitability.

Consider these four factors when deciding to use a feed additive.

1) anticipated response


2) economic return

3) available research

4) field response

Responses are similar to goals of a successful feeding program. Examples of added responses of additives are increased digestion, reduced heat stress and improved animal health.

Return over investment measures if a feed additive is profitable. For example, when increased milk production is the measured response, a return on investment can be calculated. For example, an additive can raise the feed cost 5 cents per head per day and if milk is valued at 10 cents per pound, every cow must produce half a pound of milk to cover the cost of the additive.

The following is a list of feed additives that you may want to consider: anionic salts, biotin, calcium propionate, magnesium oxide, monensin, propylene glycol, silage inoculants, sodium bicarbonate or sesquicarbonate (buffer), yeast or yeast cultures and zinc methionine.

Each feed additive works differently. When using a feed additive, you need to know what to measure, the amount of response and what is your return over investment. A feed additive should yield a minimum of a 2-to-1 return on investment. PD