February 8, 2017
On U.S. dairies, the average mortality rates for preweaned calves is about 7.8%, which means nearly all operations can make improvements in this area, according to Dr. Angel Aguilar, technical services manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“Supporting calf health can pay dividends in reduced treatment costs, lowered death loss and improved gain,” he said. “To meet these goals, operations must ensure calves get a good start before they are challenged with stress. That takes attention to management practices and nutrition.”
To improve calf health, Aguilar suggested that producers tackle the main causes of calf illness, which are scours, digestive and respiratory disorders associated with stress. He recommended reducing or eliminating the main causes of stress, such as:
* Abrupt feed changes;
* Poor ventilation;
* Exposure to sudden weather changes, and
* Excessive heat or cold.
Aguilar recommended that producers also carefully transport, vaccinate and handle preweaned calves to reduce the stress associated with these events.
In addition, a healthy and balanced digestive system can support a calf’s overall immune system. One way to achieve this is to add an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic to the milk replacer, raw milk or waste milk fed to neonatal calves. ADY probiotics containing Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 have been shown to help reduce the negative impact of stress in cattle.
“Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 is a proven probiotic that positively activates the immune system of cattle during times of stress,” Aguilar said. “It actually works in the animal’s lower gut to influence the calf’s natural immunity through an internal active process.”
Aguilar cautioned that not every probiotic can deliver these effects, particularly in newborn calves, so producers should look for specific strains that deliver results.
“At birth, the digestive system of a calf is just beginning to develop,” Aguilar said. “It’s one of the many ways calves are vulnerable. Probiotics can help alleviate stress that so often damages the productivity potential of the calf — and the herd as a whole. Healthy calves provide a strong foundation for the health of a herd and profitability of an operation.”
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