Minimizing stress to avoid intestinal health problems in cattle – AgriNews

NEW PRAGUE, Minnesota — The intestinal tract of cattle is important for digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as serving as a vital barrier.

“The gastrointestinal tract is a tube that runs from the animal’s mouth to the anus,” said Sara Kvidera, dairy technical consultant for Elanco Animal Health.

“The lumen of the gastrointestinal tract is an inhospitable environment. It contains many different microbes and enzymes,” Kvidera said during a webinar hosted by the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association. “You want to keep things from going from the outside in that aren’t supposed to.”

In humans, the intestine has a surface area of ​​about 400 square meters, Kvidera said.

“It’s about the size of a doubles tennis court, so there’s a lot of potential for offense,” she said.

“In a ruminant, the waist is much more spread out, and not only is it a big area, but there’s stuff going through it all the time,” Kvidera said.

“The rumen has multiple layers and is much thicker than the lower intestine,” she said. “The lower intestine has cell thickness and it has an inner and outer layer of mucus.”

That means there’s a big difference in exposure to pathogens, Kvidera said.

“Mucus is an important feature of the lower intestine to keep microbes where they belong and not allow them to get too close to the barrier,” Kvidera said.

“The rumen has a lot of layers, so it probably takes a fairly severe challenge of rumen acidosis to get bacterial translocation in the rumen, whereas the hindgut may be a bit more sensitive,” she said. .

Dairy farmers strive to prevent intestinal health issues in their animals to avoid activating the immune system.

“When the immune system becomes active, it’s a big waste of energy,” Kvidera said. “Immune cells require a lot of glucose, and glucose is an important source of fuel for animals.”

However, Kvidera said, it’s really hard to quantify because the immune system resides in every tissue in the body.

“With a healthy animal, energy from food goes to meat, milk or reproduction with a very small percentage of that energy going to the immune system,” she said.

“But when the immune system is activated, the energy from the feed is redirected to the immune system and it has a preference for glucose, which is particularly important in lactating animals because glucose is the precursor to lactose. which determines milk production.

If the immune challenge is so severe that the animal stops feeding, the energy source is removed.

“This causes cattle to break down muscle tissue to provide amino acids for immune cell synthesis,” Kvidera said. “It can quickly become a big waste of energy and lead to a negative outcome for growers.”

Therefore, it is important for dairy producers to prevent infections in their cattle.

“Keeping a clean environment goes a long way in preventing exposure in the first place,” Kvidera said. “If you don’t have a situation to deal with, you don’t have the negative consequences that come with it.”

Dairy producers should strive to minimize stress caused by feed restrictions, weaning, transport or overcrowding.

“Eliminate heat stress as much as possible, as this will have a beneficial effect on the animal’s gut,” Kvidera said.

“Intestinal inflammation can rob energy resources for other infections, for productive purposes, or for tissue growth,” she said. “Preventing inflammation helps keep energy where it needs to go for productive purposes and helps you become a more profitable and efficient producer.”

For more information on the Dairy Calves and Heifers Association, visit

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