Probiotics have been popular as supplements for humans for decades now, but they're just starting to emerge in the world of cattle farming. Since cows rely heavily on gut bacteria in order to digest the cellulite in plant material that most other animals can't break down, probiotics are particularly useful for maintaining good health in cattle. Learn how calves can benefit the most from probiotic feeds and supplements during the crucial first few months of life.

Getting a Colony Started

While many other animals are born with at least some bacteria already growing in their digestive systems, cows have a completely sterile gastrointestinal tract at birth. They pick up the right bacteria from their mother and the environment around them, but this means they're also picking up plenty of bad bacteria that can out compete the rest. Bacterial imbalances in the rumen lead to slow growth, serious diseases, and loss of calves. Administering a probiotic supplement immediately after birth is safe and helps establish plenty of good bacteria before the rest move in. Following up with a probiotic feed as each calf weans supports that colony during crucial growth and stress stages.

Boosting Bottle Feeders

Probiotics feeds and supplements are also helpful for calves that lose their mothers or are born to cows that can't produce enough milk. When you're bottle feeding from the first hours of a calf's life, the calf receives none of the colostrum or positive bacteria from the mother that is transferred through the milk and from the surface of the teat. Adding probiotic bacteria to the milk and offering enriched feeds to weaning cows can prevent all your hard work at bottle feeding from going to waste on a calf that struggles to grow.

Improving Cow Recovery

Finally, probiotic feed is also the best way to help a cow that has just calved recover from the end of her pregnancy. Many probiotic feeds are also high in energy because they're designed to boost a cow that is already struggling with illness or weight loss. Combining a fresh load of powerful bacteria with a high energy feed ensures the cow is ready to start producing milk. This is especially important in cow-calf dairy farms where the cows are taken into rotation just a few days after giving birth. Probiotic cattle feeds can be tailored to maximize milk production by supporting better overall health and a faster recovery from the challenges of calving.