Follow your calf's gut to reap future milk production

Dairy Calf and Heifer Association
Normal gut health in calves is key to a strong, functioning immune system – which can have lifelong benefits.

Want a high-performing, profitable dairy cow? It might be time to pay more attention to your calves’ digestive health. Normal gut health is key to a strong, functioning immune system – which can have lifelong benefits.

“A calf’s value extends through to her performance as a cow, when she enters the milking herd,” says David Mathes, director of sales and marketing at DBC Ag Products. “One way to maximize this value is to support calf gut health and immunity early in life with eubiotics.”

Digestive health’s role

About 70% of a calf’s immune system resides in or around the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Environmental changes, antibiotics and other causes can alter normal gut flora. If the calf digestive system is not working well, it can impact nutrient absorption and immune system function.

“Maintaining normal gut flora and a healthy digestive system plays an all-important role in dairy calf health,” says Mathes. “It also supports the immune system so it can perform its job of helping produce healthy, fast-growing calves.”

Maintaining digestive health also pays dividends in dairy cows. Research shows proper health management and optimal nutrition during the first 6-8 weeks of life can impact future performance.

One study showed for every 2.2 pounds of average daily gain prior to weaning, milk yield increased by 5,023 pounds over three lactations. Growth rate and nutrient intake before weaning had a more direct and significant effect on milk yield than genetic selection for production.

Feeding dairy calves eubiotics supports digestive health and immune function early in life and yields more return later in milking performance.

How eubiotics work

Eubiotics are often described as a class of ingredients including probiotics, prebiotics, essential oils and organic acids.

“Eubiotics, combined with other novel feed ingredients which support gut health, present a total package to support dairy calf health,” says Mathes. “Supporting dairy calf health is a proactive way to obtain a high-performing cow that pays you back in the bulk tank.”

Look for a total package containing multiple eubiotics to deliver the broadest level of calf support.

“Feeding dairy calves a broad range of eubiotics can support the GI tract and immune system, supporting overall health,” says Mathes. “And it can pay off in faster growth, resulting in cows that enter the milking herd sooner and produce more milk.”