Make sure you know all the information when purchasing probiotics for your calves

By Rodney Woods

Three questions separate the pretenders from the real deal in probiotic efficacy, according to Allan Hain, who is known as the grandfather of the live micro-organism debate.

Mr Hain, who has arguably the most credibility on probiotics within Australasia, said there was no longer any question that quality probiotics worked, and that they were an important part of the future of dairying.

However, he warned there were some important distinctions between product strength, and mode of actions that farmers should be wary of.

He believes the three questions are directly linked to the results probiotics are capable of and that they aren't being answered well enough.

Three questions farmers need to ask

Mr Hain's formulations, since marketing probiotics in Australia for the first time in 1998, are the science behind two next-level calf-rearing support systems, BioCalf and BioBoost, which are Daviesway/DASCO products.

BioCalf is a double-strength probiotic milk-additive powder for calves; it contains Australia's only all-natural coccidiostat and is added to the milk every day.

BioCalf's sister product – BioBoost paste – is 40 times stronger than any other probiotic on the market, is easily administered orally, and designed for new, sick and stressed calves.

Mr Hain urges farmers to ask three questions before they choose their personal probiotic path.

● What is the number of live cells per gram, expressed as Colony Forming Units per gram – or what is the product strength?

● What is the product's stability/viability (liquid or powder, and shelf life)?

● What is the product blended with (active live yeast, enzymes and probiotics)?

“One of the problems in this business is that farmers don't have all the information they need to make informed decisions about what they are buying,” Mr Hain said.

“As soon as there is a health challenge on-farm, you need a high CFU count, viability (shelf life), and micro-encapsulation in order to change outcomes.

“There has been a lot of work done over the years and while people mostly focus on single-strain yeasts, but the probiotics and enzymes also have a synchronistic action in the rumen.

“When they are formulated in the right combinations at the right strength, they make a powerful product.”

Why strength matters

So, why does it need to be stronger, Mr Hain hears you ask?

“It's a war in there (digestive tract of cattle),” he said.

“The more soldiers we have in there the better — and some soldiers in the probiotic world come better equipped for the fight than others.

“It's as simple as that.

“I don’t know anyone using higher concentrations than us.

“There are myriad of sub-par products out there now, which have very low amounts of CFUs.

“When farmers buy very low amounts of the active ingredients in these products, it's a concern.”

Lower GI tract drives immunity

Mr Hain said the lower GI tract drove 70 to 80 per cent of a mammal's immunity, and getting the right concentrations of probiotics to that sweet spot was not easy.

So, there is no question in his mind that the microencapsulated probiotics in BioCalf and BioBoost are critical.

“If the probiotics come to life in the rumen, they aren't worth two-bob,” Mr Hain said.

“The microencapsulated coating allows them to bypass the rumen, and come to life in the lower GI tract where they out-compete pathogenic bacteria, and do their best work.

“Common sense says that you cannot get that mode of action with liquid supplements.

“They will give a nominal therapeutic effect, and it's better than feeding nothing.

“But, in my opinion, it's not the answer.”

Immunity delivers results

Mr Hain said fueling a healthy immune system led to other vital and more subtle conversations.

“There is a reason one calf gets sick, and another doesn't,” he said.

“It's usually because of suppressed immune function in those calves.

“If you’ve got strong immune function, and a strong load of beneficial organisms in the lower GI tract, it makes sense your calves can fight infection.

“We all know that healthy calves make highly productive cows.”

Quality above all else

Results motivate Mr Hain, and he's clear after more than two decades about what it takes to achieve that.

“It always been about the results for me. I love hearing the positive stories coming back from farmers,” he said.

“With expenses continually mounting, it's important that farmers have all the information they need to get these purchases right.”