Research-article| Volume 84, SUPPLEMENT , E194-E203, June 2001

Ionophores for Dairy Cattle: Current Status and Future Outlook

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      Ionophores are used commercially throughout the world in the beef and poultry industries. Production efficiency of cattle is increased through alteration of rumen fermentation and control of protozoa that cause coccidiosis. Ionophores act by interrupting transmembrane movement and intracellular equilibrium of ions in certain classes of bacteria and protozoa that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract. The actions of ionophores provide a competitive advantage for certain microbes at the expense of others. In general, the metabolism of the selected microorganisms favors the host animal. Energy metabolism is enhanced through increased production of propionate among ruminal fatty acids with a concomitant reduction in methane. Ruminal degradation of peptides and amino acids is reduced, thereby increasing the flow of protein of dietary origin to the small intestine. Total flow of protein to the lower tract is often increased with ionophore feeding. Risk of digestive disorders such as bloat and acidosis that result from abnormal rumen fermentation is reduced, as are certain conditions caused by toxic products of fermentation, e.g., 3-methyl indole. Dry matter and nitrogen digestibilities are increased with ionophores, thereby providing environmental benefits. Monensin and lasalocid have been the most studied in research demonstrating benefits to the dairy cow. Ionophores enhance the glucose status of dairy cows through increased production of propionate. Many of the demonstrated benefits of ionophores are associated with enhancement of the energy status of the cow in the transition period and during early lactation. The benefits include less mobilization of body fat as evidenced by reduced blood nonesterified fatty acids and ketones and increased glucose. Animal manifestations include lower incidence of ketosis and displaced abomasum, reduced loss of body condition, increased milk production, and improved milk production efficiency.

      Key words


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