One non-antibiotic approach to improving preweaned calf health is to add probiotics – or “good” gut bacteria – to milk or milk replacer to protect the intestinal tract from disease-causing bacteria and keep calves healthy.

In his latest issue of Calf Notes, Dr. Jim Quigley with Provimi North America reviews the results of an evaluation of dozens of studies that looked at the effects of probiotics on calf growth and feed efficiency. This “meta-analysis” revealed that:

  • Using probiotics during the first 60 days of life can improve growth and feed efficiency in calves fed milk replacer.
  • Those same benefits were not realized in calves fed whole milk.
  • The response to probiotics was more apparent earlier in life.
  • Probiotics had less impact on calves began to consume more dry feed.
  • A simple, one-strain probiotic was just as effective as products containing multiple bacterial strains.

The full text of Quigley’s “Calf Note 178 – Probiotics for milk-fed calves” can be found here.