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How Probiotic Pastes Can Improve Performance of Newborn Animals


W.T. Shier, Professor

College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota

Newborn animals, like human babies are born without bacteria in their intestines. Normal healthy young livestock have many different types of bacteria growing in their intestines, which initially came in with food early in life. There are basically two types of bacteria living in the intestines – “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. The bad bacteria produce toxins, which lead to weakness, loss of appetite, slow growth and general failure to thrive. The growth of bad bacteria in the intestines is kept in check primarily by the good bacteria, although the young animals immune system and other defense mechanisms contribute. In addition to helping control bad bacteria, good bacteria contribute to the health and well being of young livestock in several ways. These include diet. However, their greatest contribution to good health is thought to be limiting the growth of bad bacteria. Good bacteria accomplish this in several ways. Some bacteria produce antibiotics that kill bad bacteria. Others alter the environment by changing the acidity or the amount of oxygen that is available. However, the most important way is thought to be by growing so rapidly that they out-compete the bad bacteria for nutrients and space. Thus, the bad bacteria are not completely killed off, but their numbers are kept so low that the toxins that they produce can be tolerated.

Probiotic pastes are designed to improve the health of young livestock by seeding their intestines with good bacteria. It is intended that the good bacteria in the paste will grow and take over the intestines before bad bacteria have a chance to enter the environment. If newborn livestock are not given good bacteria shortly after birth, bad bacteria may enter the intestines first. With no competition they ca grow rapidly to large numbers, which produce large amounts of toxins.

The first days of life are critical in determining how rapidly young livestock will grow later. If bad bacteria are controlled, other diseases are avoided and the young livestock are adequately nourished, this is one of the most rapid growth periods in the newborns life. Failure to take advantage of this period can cause stunting of growth.

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