Optimizing gut health in your calves

Because a calf’s job is to become a healthy, adult animal, gut health is key. And on a microscopic level, a battle is going on inside the calf’s gut.

3 Min Read
Optimizing gut health in your calves

On a microscopic level, there’s a battle going on inside every calf’s gut. In order for a calf to grow into a healthy adult animal and meet its full genetic potential, good gut health is vital, as it allows the calf to efficiently utilize the nutrients in feed.

“Both humans and animals have billions of bacteria in the intestinal tract,” said Steve Elliott, Alltech global director of the mineral management division. “Some are good and some are bad. These bacteria keep each other at bay or balance each other out in a healthy individual or a healthy cow. But when the balance is off and the bad guys overrun the good guys, that’s when we end up with problems.”

In order for bad bacteria to cause challenges, they must attach to the gut, where they can start to proliferate or multiply.

Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they can also kill good bacteria. So taking a different approach when addressing calf gut health can be beneficial.

 “It is helpful to be able to focus on the bad bacteria while leaving the good guys alone, which better prepares the calf for potential health challenges,” he said.

Changing tactics

“In an effective gut health management program, you want the bad guys to leave the system and not be a risk to other animals.”

As a result, the bad bacteria don’t get into bedding or calving areas.

One way to achieve optimum gut health in calves is to use a feed supplement created to promote good bacteria and support natural defenses.

“Companies like Alltech have been working on these unique solutions, and that’s where the nutritional technologies like BIO-MOS® have been well researched over the last 20 years,” said Elliott. 

“It basically supports the balance of good bacteria inside the calf’s gastrointestinal tract, which is important in helping the good guys in the battle for the gut.”  

Better health for improved performance

“We want strong immunity so that the calf can produce close to its genetic potential,” said Elliott. “We spend a lot of time and effort building good genetics in our animals, and we want them to perform at their peak.”

“If we can make calves healthier and reduce the energy they spend fighting off these types of challenges, it should result in better performance.”

Elliott said numerous trials have shown this to be true.

“We can measure immunity in various scientific parameters when we look at immune function in the calf,” he said. “But what the producer is ultimately worried about is making more money. And he makes more money by increasing efficiency, which includes average daily gain, feed conversion and morbidity or sickness treatments in his calves.” 

“We have many, many trials that have looked at the overall profitability scheme, which encompasses not only the scientific immune parameters but, more importantly, the ones that are associated with profitability,” he continued.

“Trials have shown that, without a doubt, enhanced calf health and immunity translate into better growth and better gains.”

More information about cow and calf health and BIO-MOS is available at BIO-MOS.COM.


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