Clostridial diseases are incredibly frustrating to deal with on a dairy. They can occur rapidly, without warning and often in bunches. They are nearly impossible to treat and generally appear with deadly consequences—one morning a cow or calf appears to be healthy and the next day she’s gone.
Further, clostridia species are extremely commonplace on farms from one end of the country to the other.
Clostridia are so widespread that they’ve been found in 99 percent of thousands of fecal samples taken from dairy farms just like yours. Clostridia have also been found in 73 percent of TMR samples. If you don’t think clostridia live on your farm, think again. This bacteria flourishes in nearly every possible environment; no dairy is exempt.
How Many Strains?
To date, more than 69,000 different clostridial isolates, or strains, have been harvested from these dairy samples.
- About half of these isolates (53.9 percent) make up a well-known toxigenic species, Clostridium perfringens, which can negatively impact gut health and lead to serious digestive issues such as hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS).
- The other isolates (46.1 percent) include Clostridium species that produce metabolic end-products that have a negative impact on rumen efficiency. Instances of “off-feed” cows or stomach upsets can often be tied to these secondary effects of clostridia.
The samples were collected from across the United States and organized into regions defined by geography and prevailing farm management styles. This created a clear picture of clostridial population diversity that’s been categorized into 10 specific regions.
Interestingly, results indicate that both the species of Clostridium and the level of diversity differ across regions sampled. Certain species were more commonly found in Wisconsin than in Idaho, for example. And some regions have higher clostridial diversity than others.
These regional differences can be attributed to varying soil types, environments, weather events, feed stuffs, animals and management styles. Collectively, these elements form the Microbial Terroir™, or microbial makeup, of a region or an individual farm. Differences in Microbial Terroir help explain why certain health challenges are more prevalent in some areas or certain farms more often than others.
One of the challenges in dealing with clostridial diseases is that clostridia bacteria live in the soil, making them readily available. Their high prevalence means your animals are constantly, and easily, exposed to these bacteria.
For instance, clostridia are effortlessly transferred to feedstuffs during harvest—especially when crops do not remain upright, cutter bars are set low or crops are raked. Any activity that incorporates dirt into the harvested crop can raise the level of clostridia found in feedstuffs.
Clostridia then make their way into rations through these contaminated ingredients and, in turn, into cows. The cycle is perpetuated as manure is applied to fields and clostridia are returned to the soil.
Additionally, the process of fermentation only slows clostridia growth, it does not kill them. Therefore, poorly managed bunkers and improper feeding procedures, along with dirty waterers and substandard facility hygiene, contribute to increased clostridial prevalence.
Dairy cows constantly ingest low levels of clostridia due to this widespread, underlying presence.
As bacterial loads rise, cattle become increasingly vulnerable to high-stress events, creating a tipping point for disease and performance deficiencies.
Focus on Prevention
Instead of allowing clostridia to flourish, your objective should be to limit your farm’s clostridial load and change the pathogen profile to prevent herd health and performance issues.
Using the regional clostridia profiles developed during their sampling process, ARM & HAMMER™ researchers have identified several specific combinations of proprietary strains of Bacillus bacteria that inhibit both toxigenic and non-toxigenic Clostridium species. Bacillus also thrive in soil and are natural enemies of clostridia.
Keep in mind that long-term Bacillus use also results in changes to clostridial population levels and species diversity—the Microbial Terroir of your dairy.
Through on-farm testing and analysis you can learn more about the specific microbial and environmental challenges your dairy faces, and understand the solutions available to help address these challenges.
These activities also help determine which formulation of CERTILLUS™ Targeted Microbial Solutions™ offers the potential for optimal results—to alter your farm’s pathogen profile, lower harmful bacterial loads in GI tracts and enhance overall cow health, production and efficiency.
Visit www.AHanimalnutrition.com to learn more.