Don’t pass on ionophores when backgrounding calves

Management: News Roundup from the Oct. 22 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Travis Peardon, a livestock and feed specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture in Outlook, is urging producers looking to background calves this fall to add ionophores to their rations.

“Ionophores provide protection against coccidiosis, improve feed efficiency and stabilize the rumen environment by reducing the incidence of bloat. The three ionophores approved for use in Canadian feedlots are Bovatec, Posistac and Rumensin. Rumensin is the most common one. It is approved for two different diet concentrations: 22 mg/kg the complete diet to prevent coccidiosis and 33 mg/kg if you also want to improve feed efficiency. Bloat control is another benefit at both rates.

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“I recently worked with a producer on backgrounding rations that contained a screenings pellet with Rumensin as an ingredient. The producer had the option of buying the pellet with three different levels of Rumensin, R33 (33 mg/kg), R42 (42 mg/kg) or R56 (56 mg/kg). So, the question was: what level of Rumensin is required in the ration to achieve our goals? In this case, the producer was primarily concerned about coccidiosis control which would require a total ration concentration of 22 mg/kg. The ration in this case included 11 pounds of grass/alfalfa hay and seven pounds of pellets.

“The first step in this process was to convert our total amount fed into kilograms. Eighteen pounds total feed/2.2 lb./kg = 8.18 kg of total feed. We know that we need 22 mg/kg of Rumensin in order to achieve coccidiosis control. Therefore, we need 8.18 kg of total feed x 22mg/kg of Rumensin = 180mg of Rumensin in each calf’s diet. Since we are feeding seven pounds (3.2 kg) of pellets a day we can then figure out what level of Rumensin is needed in the pellets. 180 mg/kg of Rumensin/3.2 kg of pellets = 56 mg/kg. Therefore, we need to purchase the pellets with the R56 level of Rumensin.”

This calculation must be performed each time a feed is used that contains Rumensin. It is important to remember that different ionophores have specific feeding recommendations. Feeding at too low a level is a waste and can leave animals at risk of bloat and coccidiosis.

“Every year I hear of producers with coccidiosis outbreaks in their backgrounding animals. These cases almost always result in severe loss of animals. Bloat is also a concern with backgrounding calves, especially as they adapt to high-grain diets. Ionophores fed at proper levels are an affordable way to protect yourself from these risks.”

Travis Peardon can be reached at 306-867-5504.

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