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Win the Fight against Respiratory Disease

August 28, 2020


Mike Ferguson



A Stronger Immune System Can Help The Fight Against Respiratory Disease

If you are a regular reader of the Microbial Messenger newsletter, you are aware that Chr. Hansen is a leader in producing bacteria culture for silage inoculants and probiotics (or direct fed microbials) for livestock. However, you may not realize that we are also the global leader in producing probiotic supplements for people.


Several clinical trials have demonstrated the impact of Chr. Hansen’s L. rhamnosus, LGG® and B. lactis, BB-12® on incidence and duration of flu-like sicknesses1-4. A recent review of 12 probiotic trials by the Cochran Collaborative show that taking a daily probiotic supplement can help to reduce the burden of flu-like sickness by decreasing the incidence, reducing the duration, and reducing the number of antibiotic prescriptions. These results indicate that if everyone in the US workforce took a daily probiotic, 54 million sick days could be eliminated each year (a reduction of 61%)5.


Now let’s compare a sick day for a person to a sick day for a calf, heifer, or steer. While a person might have the opportunity to make up for their lost productivity by working more hours, a calf cannot turn in make-up work. Any lost performance due to sickness is a permanent loss that will carry over to the entire lifetime productivity of the animal.


Jim Turner, Ph.D., Chr. Hansen Animal Health and Nutrition, recently presented on how probiotics can help support a normal immune response in the presence of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD). The cost of treatment for a single case of respiratory disease has been assessed at $23.606,. BRD accounts for between 50% and 70% of feedlot cattle deaths annually and cost the feedlot industry each year nearly 1 billion dollars in economic losses due to factors based on morbidity and mortality rates7.


BRD is not just a problem for beef producers, it is also a significant disease in dairy operations, and especially in dairy replacement heifers. In 2002, Callan and Garry at Colorado State University concluded that respiratory disease is the leading cause of death in weaned heifer calves (accounting for 44.8% of death losses). And, in pre-weaned dairy heifer calves, respiratory disease was the cause of 24.5% of the death losses8.



In various trials where Chr. Hansen probiotics - Bovamine Dairy Milk Replacer Supplement, Bovamine Dairy Calf and Heifer®, and Bovamine Defend® were fed, there is convincing evidence that the cattle fed the probiotic treatments had better health and performance than the control groups. Some examples of this improved health and performance included fewer sick animals, fewer treatments, lower death losses, improved ADG, and better feed efficiency.


Experts tell us that 70% of the animal’s immune cells are found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that a daily addition of beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics helps support “normal” immune functions. The result of a proper functioning GI tract is improved health, better digestion of feedstuffs, and increased nutrient absorption.


A “normal” GI tract allows the animal to express its full potential and give you the maximum return on your investment in genetics, nutrition, housing, and management practices.


The devotion to research trials by Chr. Hansen continues to show how probiotics sustain a normal functioning immune system and optimize performance when challenged by pathogens like those that make up the complexity of Bovine Respiratory Disease.

If you are aren’t using them already, I genuinely hope that you consider using science-based, research-proven probiotics for yourself, (products like CULTURELLE®, or TRUBIOTICS®) as well as for your calves and heifers (products like BOVAMINE® Dairy Plus Milk Replacer Supplement, or BOVAMINE® Calf & Heifer Px).

1Smith et al. Br J Nutr, 2012; 109(11):1999-2007

2Hojsak et al. Pediatrics, 2010;125:e1171-e1177

3Hojsak et al. Clin Nutr, 2010;29:312–316

4Rautava 2009, J. Nutrition 2009;101(11):1722–6.

5Lenoir-Wijnkoop et al., Frontiers in Pharmacology 2019; dai.org/10.389/fphar.2019.00980

6U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Types and Costs of Respiratory Disease

7Brooks KR, Raper KC, Ward CE, Holland BP, Krehbiel, CR, Step DL. Economic Effects of Bovine Respiratory Disease on Feedlot Cattle During Backgrounding and Finishing Phases.

8USDA. APHIS:VS Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health NAHMS. Dairy ’96,part I: reference of 1996 dairy management practices, 1996, Report #N200.696

®BOVAMINE is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen.

®CULTURELLE is a trademark of DSM.

®TRUBIOTICS is a trademark of Bayer.