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Gut Health Beyond the Rumen

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

June 1, 2022

Why the GI Tract Should be a Core Focus of Your Herd's Health

The ruminant digestive system is as complex as it is important to beef and dairy production. Understanding how the gastrointestinal (GI) tract functions, how it contributes to overall ruminant health and what to do when it’s compromised are critical to the success of your herd. After all, a healthier GI tract helps improve performance, prevent leaky gut and mitigate stress — all of which lead to healthier cows and profits.

Understanding the GI tract

The function of the GI tract — primarily the villi in the small intestine — is to digest and absorb nutrients, defend against harmful pathogens, prevent harmful compounds from entering the host and maintain a balanced microbiome. Leaky gut occurs when a compromised GI tract lining allows harmful substances to be absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a variety of health implications.

A healthy gut:

  • Breaks down nutrients for optimal absorption

  • Promotes and maintains immune system health

  • Maintains structural intestinal integrity

  • Preserves the balance of microflora

A damaged GI tract, also known as leaky gut, could result in:

  • An unbalanced microbiome, leading to a higher prevalence of enteric pathogens

  • Reduced digestive and absorptive capacity

  • Decreased intestinal integrity of the gut, allowing harmful pathogens and toxins to enter into the host, which can lead to both intestinal and systemic inflammation

  • A compromised immune system

Stressors impacting gut health in cattle

Just as exposure to pathogenic bacteria in the environment is inevitable, so are animal stress events. Under stress, both the mucosal layer and the tight junctions are negatively impacted, often leading to inflammation and reduced integrity of the intestinal barrier.1 Reduced intestinal integrity indicates there is a breakdown in the tight junctions between the epithelial cell membranes, allowing for intestinal permeability.

Without these tight junctions, pathogenic organisms like clostridia, Salmonella and Escherichia coli can cross the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream, resulting in an immune response that makes cattle more susceptible to diseases that can reduce their performance and your profitability.2

All cows endure stressors daily, and some are unavoidable. To ensure your cattle are set up for optimal health and productivity, it’s important to identify which stressors you can alleviate, and which ones you need to mitigate with a direct-fed active microbial.

Choosing a microbial

Not all probiotic products are active microbials, and not all active microbials are the same. When evaluating active microbial solutions to fight against intestinal-compromising pathogenic bacteria, consider the following factors:

  • Proven mode(s) of action

  • Specificity against the disease-causing pathogens of interest

  • Controlled evaluation to document response benefits in the target host

  • Strain safety

  • Acid and bile stability

  • Maintenance of beneficial gut bacteria

  • Speed of growth within the gut

  • Suitability for use with other antimicrobials

  • Stability in pelleting conditions

Why mode of action matters

By now you know why gut health beyond the rumen is important, so why does the mode of action matter? By understanding how the active microbial works the ruminant digestive system, one can better predict how the host will respond to the product once it is fed. This helps create confidence in the product, as it has gone through the rigorous testing and research to prove the mode of action.

Targeting pathogens with precision

CLOSTAT® from Kemin contains a proprietary, patented strain of Bacillus subtilis PB6. Kemin selected B. subtilis PB6 — a unique, naturally-occurring and spore-forming probiotic — because it helps maintain the balance of microflora in the GI tract in an array of animals, including beef and dairy animals. What’s more, the B. subtilis PB6 in CLOSTAT has been shown to have multiple modes of action:

Get close to the action! Visit for the science behind proven protection against pathogens.

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