As antibiotics come under increased scrutiny, livestock producers are looking to alternatives to improve health and performance through targeting the intestinal tract and the associated innate immune system.
Preparing the immune system for unforeseen challenges like feed quality variation, weather events and pathogen growth is critical to preventing damage to intestinal lining cells and avoiding unwanted immune responses that can cause disease elsewhere in the body. Although often underutilized, the gut is one of an animal’s largest immune organs and a first line of defense against common toxins and harmful pathogens. New technologies like Refined Functional Carbohydrates™ (RFCs™) are capable of increasing intestinal protection, thus reducing both clinical and subclinical disease from a wide range of insults.
Role of RFCs
Refined Functional Carbohydrates (RFCs) are nutritional solutions to help provide a healthy and responsive immune foundation, since the interaction of nutrition and immune status can have a significant impact on animal performance. Animals function best when gut immunity is constantly in place. Therefore, the first step to optimal immunity is through every bite of feed instead of relying on periodic boosters to the immune system.
RFCs can help maintain gut health and overall animal health. RFCs bind specific pathogens, rendering them harmless to the animal. In addition, RFCs exhibit prebiotic properties by supporting the beneficial bacteria of the intestine while blocking sites for attachment by pathogens.
Protection at all ages
With a poorly functioning immune system, cows are more likely to become infected with a new organism, escalate a chronic subclinical infection to a clinical infection, or have a minor infection that becomes more severe.1 More importantly, feeding RFCs from day one reduces potential intestinal damage and energy loss to an “unnecessarily stimulated” immune system.
When fed to young calves, RFCs have been shown2 to help reduce scouring caused by Cryptosporidium parvum. RFCs have also been shown3 to have activity against Eimeria, another scours-causing organism, as well as various types of E. coli and Salmonella enterica—the pathogens most likely to cause scouring problems.
Additionally, Salmonella may threaten vulnerable cows—especially those in the transition period. In 2007, USDA research3 showed that 13.7 percent of healthy dairy cows tested positive for Salmonella, even though they didn’t appear to be sick. And Salmonella was found on 39.7 percent of dairies.
Other dangers lurk in the feed bunk: mycotoxins. Mycotoxin contamination in feed affects the animal on two levels—locally, at the point of attack in the intestinal cells, and systemically, if the release of inflammatory compounds reduces immunity in other parts of the body. That ripple effect begins when gut health is compromised and tissues are irritated. This often opens the door for opportunistic diseases that also reduce immune function, negatively impacting reproductive performance and productivity.
RFCs can either bind to these pathogens or block their receptors and prevent them from attaching to the intestinal wall and causing disease. The dangerous organisms then pass harmlessly through the digestive system and are excreted. The pathogens remain deactivated, helping to break their life cycle and reduce the odds of reinfection.
Including RFCs in rations helps to support and enhance the cow’s immune system during transition and beyond. This level of protection enables animals to devote energy to all functions, instead of staving off infections or struggling to maintain nutrient uptake. A steady, well-functioning immune system makes everything work better—from vaccines and rations to total animal productivity.
1 Waldron MR. Enhancing Immunity and Disease Resistance of Dairy Cows through Nutrition. In Proceedings. 2013 University of Florida Ruminant Nutrition Conference. Pages 64-73.
2 Jalukar S, Nocek JE. Evaluation of enzymatically hydrolyzed yeast in vitro and in vivo for control of Cryptosporidium parvum infections in dairy calves. J Anim Sci 2009;87, E-Suppl. 2/J Dairy Sci 2009;92, E-Suppl. 1. Research Bulletin D-38 and Research Bulletin D-61.
3 USDA-APHIS. Salmonella and Campylobacter on U.S. Dairy Operations, 1996–2007. Available at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/dairy/downloads/dairy07/Dairy07_is_SalCampy.pdf. Accessed September10, 2018.