Benefits of Calf Rearing Supplements

June 1, 2017

Benefits of Calf Rearing Supplements

Trials in NZ and overseas have demonstrated the long term benefits of good calf rearing in terms of improved production and health. Freshly born calves have yet to develop their immune systems, so rely initially on antibodies in colostrum for early protection against potential pathogens. However, this does not provide complete protection, especially during periods of elevated challenge. In addition, due to practical issues, some calves may not receive their full dose of colostrum. Therefore, it is important to provide them with as much support nutritionally, as well as providing good, clean housing conditions.

Although colostrum and milk contain minerals and vitamins, there may be some benefits in supplementing these, particularly with those associated with boosting immune function, such as selenium and vitamin E. The best products provide a full range of trace minerals and vitamins to aid normal growth and development.

Calves are born without a full complement of gut bacteria, which are essential for maintaining a healthy gut environment and developing robust immune function. Their guts are colonised by bacteria which they pick up from their environment, which can be either beneficial or potentially harmful (pathogens).

There are a number of options to assist in developing a healthy gut environment. One is by introducing beneficial bacteria {probiotic) which compete with pathogens for attachment sites on the gut wall, and also produce lactic acid to acidify the gut, which helps restrict pathogen activity and proliferation.
Indigestible cell wall components of specific yeast strains (prebiotics) can also be used to compete for attachment sites, bind to some pathogens, and boost immune function, by interacting with calves’ immune systems.
Specifically selected live yeast cultures have been introduced more recently, as these provide additional benefits in that they produce proteases (enzymes) that can neutralise pathogenic bacterial toxins, stimulate immune function (immunoglobulin IgA),and promote the proliferation of beneficial bacteria at the expense of pathogens. Trials have shown improved gut health as demonstrated by increased villi length and crypt depth (indicators of gut integrity), decreased scouring and improved growth rates.

Coccidiosis is always a threat to calves as they have to develop immunity to the protozoan parasite that causes it. Feeding a coccidiostat helps suppress the activity of the protozoa, so calves’ immune systems are not overwhelmed, to enable them to develop sufficient immunity. Trials have shown benefits in terms of decreased mortality and morbidity (being unwell), and improved growth rates.

Nutritech has recently launched an improved version of DanCalf® Plus called DanCalf® Gold. DanCalf® Gold contains a range of trace minerals and vitamins, a probiotic (Immustart®), prebiotic (Agrimos®), and coccidiostat (Bovatec®), but also includes a specifically selected live yeast culture (Levucell® SB). It is the most comprehensive product on the market for supporting young calves, to assist them in maintaining good health, and supporting growth and development.

As featured in Rural Diary, June 2017

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About the Author

Julian Waters
Consulting Nutritionist
BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD, CBiol, MIBiol, RNutr, CPAg, MNZIPIM
Julian is an independent, qualified nutritionist who consults around the world. Read More

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