Since the inception of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), producers could be seeking alternative methods to feed-grade antibiotics in order to keep their calves healthy. With growing consumer concerns about super bugs and antibiotic resistance, there is a closer eye on the livestock industry and increasing public pressure to reduce and eliminate the use of antibiotics for growth promotants in agriculture.
Bavaria Corporation International, a supplier of specialty phosphates and antimicrobials to the meat processing industry, is looking to nature to find alternative solutions to traditional options typically used by cattle ranchers. The company has developed a new product, called GOL, which is made from the compounds of garlic, a well-known antimicrobial.
“GOL is a food-grade product made from the extract of garlic or from synthesized chemicals made of the same components as garlic,” said Bruce Hopkins, Bavaria market development manager. “GOL was created simply as a natural alternative to antibiotics in livestock. Coincidentally, there is a big move in the United States today to move away from low dose antibiotics because it promotes resistant bugs. However, producers still need to maintain animal health and make a profit, so GOL offers a good solution to keeping livestock healthy and avoiding expensive and labor-intensive treatments of sick animals.”
GOL has undergone extensive research and field trials, and Hopkins said it’s become quite evident that a low dose of GOL could be a cost-effective solution for producers. It’s available in liquid form for drinking water, as a free-flowing powder for granulated feed or mash, as a micro encapsulated power for extruded feed, and liofilizated for ruminants and horses. It complements well with other essential oils and organic acid, as well. The freeze-dried version is even approved for use in organic agriculture production.
“Added to feed or water, GOL improves intestinal health, helps maintain feed consumption and reduces diarrhea during infectious events,” said Hopkins. “This can be used in both monogastric animals and ruminants. Beef producers could use this on gestating cows, newly weaned calves or anywhere along the lifecycle of the beef animal. GOL also aids in controlling Coccidiosis and increases transference of immunoglobulin G from parent to offspring thus maintaining overall health, increasing weight gain and lowering veterinary expenses. Plus, the livestock really love it; it’s very palatable with a slight garlic taste.”
With an ongoing trial taking place in Mexico and a completed study in Spain, Hopkins said they don’t yet have any American customers, but the product has been tested, approved and is waiting for customers to give it a shot. The liquid version is available for $50 per liter, and the recommended dosage is 200 mL per thousand liters of water.
“In Spain, we tested GOL using 1 percent in mineral blocks, and it was very successful in maintaining animal health in the cow herd,” said Hopkins. “We are currently negotiating with a U.S. manufacturer of mineral blocks to conduct a trial using molasses tubs offered to cattle on pasture. The product is currently available in the U.S.”
To purchase GOL, contact Bavaria at 407-880-0322 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This product is just one of many that have hit the market as the VFD has made it more challenging and cumbersome to use feed-grade antibiotics. Prebiotics, probiotics and natural antimicrobials, chelated minerals and even apple cider vinegar have all found their way into feed rations with mixed results and reviews from cattle feeders.
Products like BioMos, Vitamix, Ameferm and Diamond V are just a few of the more recognizable brands of products available on the marketplace today.
“We feed probiotics to our feeder cattle,” said Lance Perrion, a rancher from Ipswich, South Dakota. “With proper management, we have only treated two calves for a snotty nose since 2011. We calve in April and background the calves until March. We started porticos to gain feed efficiency.”
Essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, oregano and thyme, just to name a few, have also become a popular option to aid in digestion, promoting healing or increase feed efficiency in livestock.
“We put Oregano oil in our lick tubs with great success,” said Tiffany Kobbermann, of Clontarf, Minnesota.
Yet, little testing or research has been done on essential oils. According to Jim Paulson, University of Minnesota Extension dairy educator said, “Medicinal properties of plants have been known for thousands of years. In recent years, many of the essential oils have been studied for these antimicrobial properties. Much of the research with essential oils has been done in-vitro in a controlled lab setting. The effects of oils seem to be diet and pH dependent with certain oils working better with a particular diet. There are limited data available from trials with lactating cows feeding essential oils.” Research is ongoing to determine whether or not the effects observed in-vitro carry over to the rumen which is a much larger and diverse ecosystem, he said.
With many unknown variables to consider, Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension beef feedlot management associate, urges producers to do their research before adding a new product to a ration.
“We are seeing more interest from feedlots, backgrounders and cow-calf producers to try alternatives to feed-grade antibiotics because of the market concerns and the hassle with the VFD,” said Rusche. “The question for these new products is, do they really work? How much research does the product have to support it? There are some cases of people out there selling foo-foo dust, so the big thing I try to stress is when we are evaluating a product, we really need to make sure the data backs up what the product claims to do.”
Rusche says direct-fed microbials and fermentation products continue to grow in popularity, but sometimes the results aren’t always consistent.
“Antibiotics work; they are just really effective, so the challenge is these alternatives aren’t necessarily an equal one-to-one substitution,” said Rusche. “However, many nutritionists are telling me that more producers are opting out of using traditional feed-grade antibiotics to see how they get along without. In turn, they are looking for alternatives that will promote healthy calves. If producers are considering one of these alternatives, they want to make sure to do their research and not spend money on something that has a very low probability of actually working.”