Current Project

Investigation of alternatives to ionophores/antibiotic management strategies in finishing cattle

Executive Summary

Finishing beef cattle are commonly fed ionophores (monensin, lasalocid) to control and prevent coccidiosis and ruminal acidosis by altering rumen fermentation. Finishing beef cattle are often fed antibiotics, specifically tylosin phosphate, to reduce the incidence of liver abscesses. Although not termed as growth promotants, feeding the combination of ionophores and antibiotics to conventionally finished cattle improves feed efficiency and weight gain through their actions on rumen microbial fermentation (DiLorenzo, 2011; Hersom and Thrift, 2012). It has been proposed that the advantages in feed efficiency and weight gain of cattle fed the combination of ionophores and antibiotics are an indirect effect of cattle having improved overall health. Even though the combination of ionophores and antibiotics has been an effective approach to raise efficient and healthy cattle, Canadian beef producers are being challenged to produce beef from cattle that are not fed ionophores and antibiotics.

An alternative approach to feeding cattle the combination of ionophores and antibiotics could be to replace them with a combination of essential oils and organic acids. Essential oils are plant-derived compounds that typically exert antimicrobial effects leading to altered rumen fermentation profiles, thus mirroring the modes of action of ionophores (DiLorenzo, 2011). Organic acids have antimicrobial effects by suppressing fungal activity and maintaining an acidic environment in the rumen (Castillo et al., 2004). Internal testing by DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ) has helped develop proprietary blends of essential oils (thymol, eugenol, vanilin, guaiacol, and limonene) and extensively testing organic acids with the focus of producing alternatives to antibiotics. In addition to testing the effects of essential oils and organic acids on live performance and carcass characteristics, these products may have an effect on color stability and lipid oxidation of beef. This is important as consumers associate beef quality and freshness when beef cuts in the meat case are cherry red in colour. Since many consumers avoid packages of beef where any part of the lean is discoloured, retailers are then forced to discount the meat. Thus, testing of shelf life is necessary and will help fill a research gap.

Completion Date: 2018

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