Enhancing Cattle Feed Efficiency

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Article | 28.02.2021
Efficient. It is an often-used word in our busy lives. We want to be efficient with our time, our money, and our efforts. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines efficient as "capable of producing desited results with little or no waste (as in time or materials)."

In agriculture, producers are known for utilizing better machinery to complete jobs in less time with less waste and selecting proven genetics to produce livestock and crops with better performance.

But what about feed efficiency? How can cattle producers get freshly weaned calves or stockers to perform more efficiently on the feedstuffs they're being fed?

The feed additive monensin - available from Huvepharma as Monovet® 90 (Monensin Type A Medicated Article) - has FDA-approval to do exactly that.

An ionophore, monensin is a compound fed in cattle diets that helps alter rumen fermentation patterns to increase feed efficiency. Specifically, ionophores work by altering the metabolism of bacterial, protozoal and animal cells within the rumen. Monensin helps cattle get more energy from the ration by increasing the proportion of propionic acid and reducing butyric and acetic acid. For cattle on feedlot grain rations, this process can help achieve better feed efficiency. On high roughage rations, such as pasture or silage, monensin's affect in the rumen helps cattle get more energy from their ration, which in turn can increase their rate of gain.

How about some numbers to give evidence to these claims? A meta-analysis of the effects of monensin in beef cattle on feed efficiency, body weight gain, and dry matter intake published in the Journal of Animal Science (Duffield et al., 2012) showed: 

  • monensin use in growing and finishing cattle reduced dry matter intake (DMI) by 3% (P<0.001)
  • monensin increased average daily gain (ADG) by 2.5% (P<0.001)
  • monensin improved feed efficiency (FE) by 6.4% (P<0.001)

So, if you're ready to include monensin (Monovet® 90) to add efficiency to your cattle feeding efforts, here are a few different feeding scenarios to consider: 

  • Cattle fed high roughage rations often fill up on sheer bulk of the feedstuff before satisfying their energy needs. This is called physical fill. Feeding supplements can help ensure animals get the nutrients they need - and adding monensin to the supplement allows the animals to get more energy from what they eat. In this situation, total feed consumption stays about the same, but because of greater energy recovery from the feed, improved feed efficiency and an average daily gain closer to genetic potential is often achieved. 


  • Cattle being raised on pasture or high roughage rations often experience a changing ration that may be high quality grass early in the season to mature forages or crop residues in late summer and fall. With the varying quality of these forages, the nutritive value to the animal also changes. Energy for growth is often lacking on forages, and protein content can drop as plants mature. Adding protein or energy supplements to the forage ration can improve stocker/pasture cattle's rate of gain, and adding monensin to the supplement can further boost average daily gains. (Note that in pasture settings because feed consumption/efficiency cannot be accurately measured, monensin is approved only for increased rate of weight gain in pastured growing cattle.) 


  • Among cattle fed high silage rations, with a combination of roughage and grain, cattle may have a significant response to monensin because it helps the rumen extract more energy from both the roughage and the grain that is consumed. In this feeding scenario, daily feed consumption (intake) typically drops, but average daily gain and feed efficiency may improve.


  • For cattle on feedlot grain rations, the inclusion of monensin is common to help the rumen get more energy from the ration to boost feed efficiency, allowing cattle to maintain their rate of gain on less feed.

Keep in mind, similar to other feed additives, ionophores are fed in small amounts with another feedstuff as the carrier. Monovet® 90 (monensin) can be added as part of a complete feed or mixed with a supplement. Currently, the available feed forms include meal, blocks, pellets, cubes, liquids, protein/energy supplements and vitamin/mineral mixes.

Important safety information

Monovet® 90 (monensin Type A medicated article) is not for human use. Consumption by unapproved species may result in toxic reactions and even fatalities. A withdrawal time has not been established for pre-ruminating calves. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. When mixing and handling use protective clothing, impervious gloves and a dust mask. Operators should wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. If accidental eye contact occurs, immediately rinse with water. To report adverse effects, access medical information, or obtain additional product information, call +1-877-426-7765. The product label can be viewed by clicking here.

References are available on request
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