Precision Microbes and calf health
I’ve been lucky in my career to be involved in some great projects and work on some exciting research. With the need to reduce and replace antibiotics on farms, these Precision Microbes products are cutting edge in this space. The market feedback in Ireland and now across Europe is a real success story.
For 12 months now, I’ve got to work with microbes, and it’s been a game-changer in what I’ve seen across animal species.
This article focuses on calf health, and the unique role these new probiotics and postbiotic liquids can play in better calf health.
Being brilliant at the basics
Before we get into the role of microbes, we must get the basics of calf health right.
This summarizes six key areas that must be right and some things I’ve found work well in calves.
Colostrum: Feed your close-up cows’ oats and soya to ensure the highest quality colostrum. Review silage analysis and remember that poor DMD and low protein in silage can impact colostrum quality. Ensure you feed calves at least 3-4 litres of colostrum quickly and cleanly. Try and follow up with a second feed of colostrum in 6-8 hours. Test the first 8-10 colostrum samples to ensure the highest quality colostrum is achieved.
Hygiene: Clean, clean, and clean again. Fresh bedding and good drainage in calving pens. Have a routine around cleaning all calf equipment daily. Avoid sharing feeders. Dip that navel early and well in either iodine or chlorhexidine—two stomach tubes, one clean (colostrum), and one for treating calves.
Space: This is a massive driver for successful calf rearing. Ensure at least 1.5m2 per calf. Remember, calves grow, and the optimum area, in my opinion, is 2m2 per calf.
Calf comfort: Straw solves many issues, so ensure you have a clean, dry well-bedded shed. Good drainage will reduce moisture and improve lying conditions and air quality. Calves get cold quickly, so calf jackets are an excellent option for young calves. When it is freezing, you should increase milk feeding. My simple rule of thumb is below zero degrees increase feeding by 10%.
Feeding: Future lifetime performance is dependent on excellent or adequate milk feeding. Where possible, transition milk (even pooled*) should be fed for 3-5 days. Then either whole milk or the highest quality replacer. With milk, feeding consistency is key, timing, temperature, and volumes. It’s hard to justify feeding calves anything less than 3 litres twice daily.
Fresh, clean water from day one and start with handfuls of fresh meal from the beginning, freshly available roughage also to help that young rumen develop.
I’ve solved a lot of calf issues with more milk, more straw, and more air.
This is where Precision Microbes probiotics and postbiotics help with better digestive health. As a result, we see improved ADGs, less scour, and improved calf performance in long-term usage.
Read below the practical uses of the products.
Fresh air: Natures-free and best disinfectant keeps sheds dry and kills pathogens. Ensure good air exchanges at calf level. Each shed must be assessed to look for risks. A simple option is more open sheds with calf jackets work well. Remember, our nose is still the best indicator of air quality.
*Work with your vet to help develop a calf health plan. Know your Johnes risk and develop farm-specific vaccine plans based on diagnostic information.
At Precision Microbes, we have developed unique environmental microbes to improve composting, reduce straw usage and improve air quality.
When we look at calf rearing, the biggest challenge is calf diarrheoa in the first six weeks.
So now on to how precision microbes play a role in maintaining good gut health and aiding recovery where problems arise.
The gut microbiome
The young calf is born with a sterile gut. However, it picks up microbes from its mother during birthing, quickly colonizing the immature digestive system.
The colostrum we feed has very high levels of prebiotics (oligosaccharides). These are with several other metabolites to help prime and develop this young gut microbiome—just another reason why colostrum is the foundation of good calf health.
A healthy gut microbiome in our calves has three core functions.
- Improve digestive health and metabolism
- Regulate immune function
- Competitive inhibition (provide innate defenses against pathogens.)
With calf diarrhea and digestive upsets being the number one issue we see in young calves, it is essential to do everything we can to promote and develop a healthy gut microbiome.
Twenty years as a veterinary surgeon and what I’m seeing with precision microbes, probiotics, and postbiotics is by far the most exciting products I’ve got to work with.
These unique blends of live beneficial bacteria and their metabolites (postbiotics) help improve digestive health.
Having the postbiotic metabolites from the bacteria in the liquid confers Precision products with some unique benefits.
These metabolites that act at the gut level to repair help and stabilize the health of the young calves’ gut microbiome.
Watch the video above for more information.
The product is available through your local veterinary surgeon. For vets looking to source the products, they are available through Interchem Ireland ltd and Vetsonic in the UK.
This is a product you want to be looking at and not for when calving starts’
- It is an excellent fast-acting gut stabilizer*. To be given at 60mls twice daily with other supportive care for three days. It can be fed in milk or given orally. The key to success is the earlier the intervention, the better. Therefore, administer the product at the very first signs of calf diarrheoa.
It is licensed under veterinary supervision to ensure all diagnostics and relevant problems have been identified.
- It has been effective in groups of calves recovering from diarrhea or digestive upsets. The fast-acting gut stabilization leads to a fast recovery and returns to normal gut health. The dose rate is 50mls daily per calf for 5-7 days,
This protocol can be used in any group of calves recovering from a disease or during periods of stress.
- With the massive success of the product, farmers and vets are now turning to long-term usage to better support long-lasting gut health. This means starting from birth, 30mls daily for 10 days and then 30mls three times weekly.
With dairy to beef systems, this protocol works well where calves come in having the stress of transport, change of diet, and environment. Again 30mls daily for 10 days and then three times weekly up to weaning.
My final thoughts
These are the most exciting and revolutionary products I’ve got to work on within my twenty-year career. Having a healthy gut microbiome is so crucial in calves. Precision Microbes probiotics and postbiotics are doing this by stabilizing the gut quickly after scour or diarrhea.
The enormous potential is long-term to support and maintain a healthy gut microbiome during the preweaning period.
Vet View: I catch up with Eammon O Connell to discuss his experiences with the products