Milk Replacer

Probiotics for Calves 101

Calf : Health

Animal : Calf

Tom Earleywine, Ph.D.

Director of Nutritional Services

Probiotics aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been around for years. With a recent focus on antibiotic use, there’s a renewed interest in nutritional products that support dairy calf health. Probiotics for calves are one option, but what exactly are they? How and when should you use them?

What are probiotics for calves?

Probiotics, Direct Fed Microbials (DFMs) and active microbials are essentially the same things – live microorganisms defined as “good” bacteria.

Probiotics for calves are microorganisms which, when fed, may help improve digestion, calf performance and building of the immune system.

Some milk replacers have probiotics already included directly in the powder for consistent and efficient calf feeding. Probiotics are also available as a supplement to mix with pasteurized whole milk or milk replacer.

What’s “good” bacteria good for anyway?

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract of a calf has a complex gut microbiome, which is a melting pot of bacteria in the gut. The good bacteria in probiotics support the microbiome to help build a strong immune system.
How does this happen? Probiotics produce antibacterial compounds, such as acids and bacteriocins (antibiotic-like substances), which help strengthen the GI tract. Bad, disease-causing bacteria are crowded out making room for good, immune-supporting bacteria.

Research demonstrates that probiotics for calves have successfully decreased gut-related diseases and improved pre-weaned calf growth.1

When should you be feeding calves probiotics?

The simple answer? All the time. Consistently feeding calves probiotics through the pre-weaned phase provides an insurance policy to protect against unforeseen dairy calf health issues. Probiotics included directly in calf milk replacer help you rest easy knowing calves receive consistent levels of probiotics at every feeding.

Sometimes calves need extra assistance. Probiotic supplements can provide a boost when calves need it most, like the critical first three weeks of life, or during feeding or housing transitions and cold and heat stress. In addition to continuous feeding of probiotics with milk replacer, providing a large dose of supplemental probiotics during times of stress can be beneficial for calves.

How should you choose a probiotic for calves?

Many probiotic products on the market can be fed to a variety of livestock species. However, each species has a unique gut environment and should be fed a product that fits their individual needs.

Choose a probiotic specifically formulated for use in calves and is backed by calf-proven research. Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Solutions spent three years researching the impact of active microbials on calves to make sure you’re feeding the very best. Our milk replacers are now enhanced with probiotics that complement existing technologies to support calf growth and immune health.

Ready to give your calves a boost? Start your calves on the path to improved digestion and performance with LAND O LAKES® Cow’s Match® and Amplifier® Max calf milk replacers.

*Ballou, Michael. Enhancing Calf Immunity through Nutrition. Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University. 2013