Posts by Rob Costello, Dairy Technical/Business Support Manager, Milk Specialties Global

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New Direct-Fed Microbial For Calves

Late-breaking Original Research

Some new and exciting research in the world of direct-fed microbials was recently presented at the 2011 ADSA-ASAS Joint Annual Meeting in New Orleans. By adding an anti-inflammatory lactic acid bacteria to a pathogen reducing Bacillus-based DFM, researchers demonstrated a significant improvement in calf performance, namely a 13 lb (5.9 kg) weight gain advantage.

In this trial, calves less than a week old were randomly assigned to 3 treatments: Control, Control diet plus a Bacillus-based DFM, or Control diet plus a Bacillus-based DFM with the anti-inflammatory lactic acid bacteria Enterococcus faecium ID7.  The control diet was a non-medicated 20% protein, 20% fat all milk protein milk replacer fed at a rate of 1.25 lb (0.57 kg) per day until weaning at 6 weeks. Calves received free-choice starter and water throughout the 8 week trial. Table 1 shows that calves receiving milk replacer containing the Bacillus DFM plus E.faecium ID7 had increased average daily gain over weeks 5-6, 7-8 and overall during the 8-week trial compared to control calves.

    Superscript letters indicate significant differences within rows. Values within a row that share the same superscript are not statistically different. For example, during week 5-6 both the Control calves and the Bacillus DFM calves have the superscript “a”. This means that the difference between the two is not statistically significant. On the other hand, the 5-6 week values for the Control and Bacillus DFM plus ID7 groups have different superscripts, which means the difference between those two treatments is significant (that’s at the P < 0.05 level if you’re interested).  

A thirteen pound weight gain difference is certainly a substantial result for a milk replacer additive. This is even more impressive when you consider the varied results on calf performance generally reported for DFM products. The recent BAMN publication, Direct-Fed Microbials (Probiotics) In Calf Diets, reports that adding direct-fed microbials to milk or milk replacer may support calf intestinal integrity and overall health and concludes that most research has reported little effect of direct-fed microbials on animal growth or feed efficiency. The publication also suggests that companies marketing direct-fed microbial products should research specific organism(s) in the product.

Well, this current research is part of a continuing effort to develop specific, targeted DFM products for calves that utilize selected bacterial strains, evaluated for desirable characteristics and effects. This research actually began over a decade ago, when...
  1. 1,500 bacterial isolates were obtained from the digestive tracts of young calves. Bacterial strains were evaluated for their colonizing ability, their ability to prevent the growth of pathogens and their compatibility with common antibiotics. The six superior strains were further evaluated in calf trials for their ability to reduce scours and treatment costs and were ultimately selected for inclusion in the DFM product BRELACTIS, marketed by Merrick's, Inc.
  2. Next, a Bacillus-based DFM selected for its effects in the intestinal lumen, especially under diarrheic conditions, was put to the test in a series of calf trials. This DFM was added to an oral electrolyte and evaluated as a therapy for scours. Pathogen shedding, treatment costs and the severity of scours were all reduced. This is the first report demonstrating efficacy of a DFM used therapeutically to mitigate calf scours.
  3. This Bacillus-based DFM was then evaluated as a milk replacer additive and a bolus supplement. The objectives of the study were to quantify the effects of the DFM as a bolus or incorporated into a 20% protein, 20% fat milk replacer on calf performance. Bolus treated calves received two boluses -- one on Day 0 and another on Day 6. Both the bolus supplement and the milk replacer additive improved ADG, fecal score and feed efficiency.
  4. Prior to the current research, Enterococcus faecium ID7, one of the six bacterial strains of BRELACTIS, was selected for further evaluation. E. faecium ID7 was found to have an anti-inflammatory response on intestinal epithelium. By reducing inflammation, E. faecium ID7 allows the immune system to respond to challenges, while helping to partition energy more effectively for calf growth.
    An important characteristic to notice from these trials is that the Bacillus-based DFM not only survives the different environments of electrolytes, milk replacers and boluses, it also withstands the associated manufacturing processes. This characteristic greatly enhances its application.

The research studies discussed above are not the complete list of evaluations that went into the development of the Bacillus-based DFM with Enterococcus faecium ID7 -- it's commercial name is Omni-bos® CB Plus -- but they clearly demonstrate a systematic, focused approach to developing and evaluating an effective calf DFM product. That makes it pretty special.