Changes to the livestock industry landscape are ushering a new generation of ionophore-free and antibiotics-free feed mills in Canada and the U.S.

"The industry keeps evolving and moving forward to address shifting consumer demands and take advantage of new options that better align with what the marketplace wants," says Dr. Nancy Fischer, a nutritionist with Country Junction Feeds, an early adopter of these approaches.

"Feed mills are part of that evolution," says Fischer. "It's not just about addressing what consumers and the marketplace are demanding. It's also about helping farmers, ranchers and livestock operations manage efficiently and profitably in this new environment."

Livestock operations increasingly need to know exactly how, and in what environment, their feed is produced, she says. This includes knowing definitively what's in the feed or not in the feed, so they can give simple and clear answers to their customers and others who are asking for assurance.

"In the case of our feed mills, we want it to be as simple as possible for our customers to have peace of mind in what they are getting, so they can avoid any issues meeting expectations and providing clear answers to questions," says Fischer.

"When they deal with Country Junction Feeds, either for production, performance, or working animals, our customers know the feed is from a mill that is ionophore-free and antibiotics-free. They also know that the feed and dietary strategies we provide are science-based and state of the art."

For Country Junction Feeds, part of providing transparent answers also means communicating clear information on the role of antimicrobials in the industry and not adding to the misinformation and piling on of negative messages.

"Antimicrobials have a role in the industry when they are needed to address specific health issues," says Fischer. "No one wants to compromise animal health or animal welfare. But as a feed mill and from a feed perspective, we don't need to add antimicrobials to feed for production or productivity purposes."

Those marketing meat products as coming from "antibiotic free" (ABF) production simply need to pull animals from the ABF stream if antimicrobial treatment is needed, she advises.

But the good news is that with the opportunities now available through nutrition strategies and new generation feed additives, animals and operations can get better performance than ever before without needing to rely on the old types of inputs that have fallen out of favor. The new approaches and tools support optimal feed efficiency, gain, gut health and other benefits. This helps minimize any health issues that would require antibiotics use.

"We take pride in being proactive in offering the latest advantages in nutrition strategies and bio-based feed additive options, using the latest science," says Fischer. "We can look at any feed source and determine how to optimize it for the greatest nutritional, health and performance value."

This can include the use of bio-based feed additives such as essential oils, and plant- and yeast-cell components that can provide greater benefits than the old inputs and fit perfectly with today's expectations, she says. This includes providing an excellent fit for raised without antibiotics (RWA) or ABF production systems.

"We started early on in adopting these approaches as part of our approach to be among the feed mills of the future," says Fischer. "With changes such as the Veterinary Feed Directive and the regular announcements and demands we see from major retailers, it's pretty clear the future is now."