Are Probiotics Beneficial for Calves?

Feeding probiotics to calves is not something new, they have been around for many years. Recently there has been a revived interest in feeding calves nutritional products to improve gut health, by fighting off bad bacteria. Studies show that feeding calves probiotics, improves digestion and feed conversion rate, for a better calf development at the early stages of their life. Young calves are exposed to a variety of pathogens before weaning, and they are often treated with antibiotics to assist in keeping them healthy. It is well known that these microorganisms are able to build a tolerance to antibiotics causing a dilemma; to use or not use antibiotics. Interestingly, probiotics may very well be a solution to this dilemma, because microorganisms cannot build immunity to probiotics.

What are Probiotics

Probiotics are the good bacteria that improve health of gastrointestinal tract supporting microbiome to build a strong immune system. Feeding calves probiotic supplements gives them a boost, by improving digestion, overall health, and building a stronger immune system. It is particularly important to use probiotics the first 60 days of life and in times of stress. Having good gut health at a young age, is vital for absorption of nutrients for optimum growth development. *

When is the Best Time to use Probiotics?

  • When they need it most, in times of any stress
  • First three weeks of life
  • Adverse weather conditions with extreme heat or cold
  • Change of feed
  • When calves are weaned
  • To improve growth status when growth is stunted, reducing economic loss
  • After use of antibiotics, because antibiotics introduce a host of problems that can disrupt the normal microbiomes in the gut reducing absorption of important nutrients which may slow growth and development **

Recent Study 2018

In China there was a study done with 50 calves with stunted grown, they divided them into three different test groups and the group fed probiotics showed the most improvement in growth performance. **

Feeding Probiotics

Feeding probiotics to calves appears to have the most impact at the first 60 days of life, once they are on whole feeds, the benefits are of less significance. They should not be underestimated as a health support in times of stress. Probiotics come in a variety of nutritional supplements and can be purchased at your local feed store, be sure purchase a product designed for calves.

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For more information on the benefits of feeding probiotics to calves see these articles.

* https://www.dairyherd.com/article/are-probiotics-young-calves-worthwhile

**https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2018.02006/full

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