The Impact of Nutrition on Herd Health and Welfare
We’re all aware of how critical nutritional management is to overall herd health and productivity. We’re also learning more and more about how the connection between nutrition and efficiency begins at birth. It’s vital to deliver the necessary nutrients to each cow, at the correct stage of life, to maintain optimal output. Proper nutrition and an ideal rumen environment, appropriate animal growth, and body condition all play a part when it comes to cow health, welfare, and the overall success of a farm.
Nutrition can help strengthen cell wall junctions to prevent leaky gut
The intestinal wall of a cow is only a single layer of cells that is bound together by what are known as “tight junctions.” These tight junctions are made of proteins and are responsible for regulating what comes in or through the cell junctions and into the animal’s bloodstream. Volatile fatty acids (VFAs) that are produced in the rumen, including butyrate, are important energy sources for those intestinal epithelial cells. So, it’s also important that the rumen is a stable environment where rumen microbes can continue producing appropriate VFAs to ensure total gut health and function.
Optimal rumen environment can avoid SARA and lameness
Subacute ruminal acidosis (“SARA”) is another stressor that can cause leaky gut. SARA happens when the rumen pH drops below 5.6 on repeated or for prolonged periods of time. A rumen pH that stays below 5.6 for too long causes death of rumen microbes, along with a release of lipopolysaccharides into the rumen. This stress is also another cause of leaky gut.
One way to combat these challenges is to work with your nutritionist to incorporate an immune support feed additive. With the right immune support product, cows have a better chance of overcoming challenges, improving immune function, optimizing rumen and liver health, and maintaining consistent feed intake. A more robust and resilient rumen environment leads to more available nutrients, a better balance of VFAs, and a more stable rumen pH. This generates better animal performance and less incidence of SARA.
Growth and body condition
Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of the growth and body condition of animals entering or re-entering the milking herd. A growing first-calf heifer has different energy and glucose needs than a 3rd lactation cow. Ensuring those animals coming into the milking string have proper maturity, growth, and body condition directly relates to their health and productivity once there. Dry cows that are too fat, too thin, or those cows that lose condition too rapidly – more than 0.5 points of condition on a 5-point scale – during the transition period are all at risk for metabolic and reproductive challenges.
Heifers that are immature will never produce the amount of milk that their counterpart who has reached appropriate maturity at calving will. It’s well known that calf-hood diseases can have life-long consequences. Being able to bolster the calf’s immune system, optimize rumen development, and strengthen the gut microbiome to optimize her growth and condition, will all contribute to the success of those animals and ultimately the success of the operation.