Digestive health in cattle is an important factor in the animals’ overall health and development. If your animals are expending extra energy in order to fight off an illness, or something is preventing them from absorbing nutrients efficiently, this takes away from the two most important uses of energy in cattle: gaining weight and reproducing. Cattle with gut problems simply are not producing at the rate that they could.
So what does digestive health or gut health mean? In cattle, this takes two forms: how well the animals are processing the nutrients in their food in order to be used by the body, and how well pathogens are contained within the digestive system to keep them from impacting other bodily systems.
Cattle have a multitude of microbes within their digestive tract that help to break down the food that the animal eats. While these microbes are essential in the cattle digestion process, it is also imperative that these microbes are contained within the gut. In animals with good digestive health, there is a barrier that keeps these microbes, along with any other pathogens the animal may ingest, contained within the digestive tract. However, if this barrier is weakened, the microbes and pathogens can escape the digestive tract and begin affecting the rest of the animal’s body, causing disease or infection.
How does this barrier weaken? One of the major factors is stress, caused by extreme heat, insufficient food supply, lack of shelter, or when the animal is weaning or being transported. Additionally, digestive tract diseases, such as E. coli and salmonella, can weaken this barrier, which in turn allows other pathogens to disrupt the digestive system. Whatever the cause, the results include liver abscesses or inflammation from infection.
To counteract this weakening, ranchers should work to minimize stress in their animals by monitoring for signs of heat stress and implementing proper nutrition and feeding practices which can both strengthen the immune system and reduce strain on the digestive tract. With these practices in place, energy that the cow might have used to fight off a salmonella infection can instead be directed to weight gain in the animal
This article is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of Central Florida Ag News or of its advertisers.
BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.