Spring calving: Setting calves up for good gut health

Mar 15, 2021

What does good gut health really mean for a cow and what can cow-calf producers do nutritionally to set calves up for good gut health? Listen to Jon Albro discuss what cow-calf producers need to be focused on as we enter calving season on the latest Block Talk Podcast.


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Tom:    I’m Tom Martin, here today with Jon Albro, nutritionist with CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements, and we’re going to talk about the upcoming spring calving season. Thanks for joining us, Jon.

Jon:     Thank you, Tom.

Tom     So, Jon, what do cow-calf producers need to be focused on as we enter calving season to set them up for the calving success that they hope for?

Jon:     Well, Tom, that’s a real broad discussion topic. There are numerous things, from management to labor to facilities and all that. But if you boil it down to just looking at the nutritional aspect of it, we oftentimes focus on body condition scoring. We pay a lot of attention to our mineral programs and the overall ration plan and nutrition. But, I guess for today’s topic that we're going to talk about, one area that maybe people don't think about very often is just the good gut health of that animal, of the cow.

Tom:    If I'm a cow, what does good gut health really mean for me?

Jon:     Well, that's a good question. And again, it gets back to why we probably don't think about it very often, but good gut health is really about maintaining a healthy microbial population in the gut of the cow. And when we talk about the gut, we're usually referring to the small intestine in the lower track, not the rumen and reticulum, which in rumen nutrition we often focus on. But the good microbial population there, there's a lot of bacteria naturally, and we want to have a healthy bacterial population and minimize the pathogenetic bacteria that can cause problems; that can cause problems by shedding into the environments, and at high enough loads they can cause problems within the cow's digestive system and, more importantly, the calf. So, that's what we really talk about with a cow and what that means for the cow.

RELATED: Setup for success at calving and beyond: CRYSTALYX and Bio-Mos 2

Tom:    So, what can cow-calf producers do nutritionally to set calves up with good gut health?

Jon:     Well, it probably starts with the cow itself. You mentioned calves in that question, but there's a product called BIO-MOS® that Alltech has had for a number of years, and we've been using some of it in CRYSTALYX for a number of years as well, and it's very popular, BIO-MOS. And most recently, it's been renamed to BIO-MOS® 2; there's another BIO-MOS compound that has been developed in more recent years— and we'll talk a little bit more about that as well— called BIO-MOS 2. But what this has really focused on is helping the overall gut health of the cow. And what goes on there is it helps promote a more healthy bacterial population in the gut. And that, therefore, can help minimize the amount of shedding of that bad bacteria in the environment, which, if that bad bacteria is picked up by newborn calves, it can cause problems that we deal with a lot of times in newborn calves before they have a lot of active immunity. It can create more issues with scours, with pneumonia and other immune challenges.

Tom:    Okay, let’s delve into BIO-MOS 2 a little bit and its value to beef cow-calf nutrition and why this latest version of BIO-MOS 2 is used in certain CRYSTALYX formulas.

Jon:     Well, BIO-MOS 2; a lot of producers are probably familiar with BIO-MOS, and there are a few competing products out there that use the name MOS. MOS actually stands for mannan oligosaccharide; we’ve talked about this in other blogs in the past on crystalyx.com. But what BIO-MOS 2 is is it’s a more refined version of the original BIO-MOS. It can be used at lower levels, which really helps us from a formulation standpoint when we’re building different formulas that we’re going to include the product in. We can use about 40% less and still get the same results and even better results. Some of the research that has been done on BIO-MOS 2 shows that if you have a healthier gut, the nutrients get absorbed better. And what a lot of research has shown is that this helps improve the amount of, the quality of and the antibody concentration in colostrum.

            And so, it makes sense that if the cow’s gut is functioning better, she's going to have better nutrient absorption, and she's going to have a better ability to build better colostrum prior to calving. And that colostrum is vitally important for a newborn calf. A newborn calf is basically born, almost, really without an immune system, and it gets its passive immunity in the first hours of life through colostrum from that first milk of the cow.

Tom:    Well, I’m wondering, Jon, how long have BIO-MOS formulas been used in CRYSTALYX and how did this get started in the first place?

Jon:     Well, we've been using it back since probably 2006–2007, right in that timeframe. I remember it was in Nebraska; we had a customer at that time that came to us, a very good CRYSTALYX customer, and said, “Look, you really should consider putting BIO-MOS in CRYSTALYX because it's a great way to get it into the cow if we’re already supplementing our cows with CRYSTALYX.” And so, our group at that time talked it over. We were not part of Alltech at that time, but we were using a lot of Alltech ingredients, and BIO-MOS was one that our company had used in other areas, not necessarily in blocks or in CRYSTALYX. But we put it in a couple of products to start with and, you know, as they say, the rest is history. It just took off. People really liked the concept; we talked about it in a lot of meetings, and today, we have, I think, over 20 different products that have BIO-MOS 2 in them as an option. It's just really been a good fit. One of the things that makes it work so well, as being used in CRYSTALYX, is that CRYSTALYX is such a good delivery system for all your nutrients because you get good, consistent intake and a very high percentage of the animals in the herd are going to consume CRYSTALYX at a predictable level. So, that makes it an excellent vehicle to deliver the BIO-MOS because you know all the animals are going to get it, and that predictable intake means you’re going to feed it at the right dose. It works better from that standpoint than maybe some other types of free-choice supplements you can put BIO-MOS in, which is not going to discount the value of those other free-choice supplements because they work too. CRYSTALYX is just very effective at getting it there, and a lot of people are feeding CRYSTALYX around calving time anyway, so it just makes sense to put it all in one.

Tom:    Do CRYSTALYX and BIO-MOS 2 complement one another in some way?

Jon:     Well, basically just what I said, yes. The fact that you're getting the BIO-MOS 2 into the animal at that critical time and that you're getting it in there at a real consistent level and a predictable level, time and time again, day after day after day. You know, nutrients and supplements, in general, are only as good as they are consumed. Meaning if you have the proper amount consumed one day and not for the next two or three days, the next two or three days, you are really compromising the nutritional value of that program. So, another thing to mention is that we normally start using BIO-MOS 2 in diets about 60 days before and after calving, more so before. Now, some of the recommendations might range from 30–60 days — a good rule of thumb is more like 45 — but the key is to start using it before calving because you’re helping that better nutrient absorption, you're helping better colostrum quality. And colostrum really is starting to be built in the mammary tissue of the cow four to six weeks prior to calving. So, it's important at that point to start using it. I think if people wait until after they’ve calved, they’re not going to get the same benefit.

Tom:    Is BIO-MOS always listed as a CRYSTALYX ingredient and is it just available for beef cattle, or do other species apply as well?

Jon:     Well, you mentioned is it always just listed as an ingredient. There are some products out there that would have BIO-MOS 2 that would not have it in the name. Most of the products that we have out there— for example, we have our Blueprint products, several of those have the name of the product, like Blueprint 20 with BIO-MOS 2, if it has the BIO-MOS 2 option. So, you have those formulas with and without the option of BIO-MOS 2, and it would say it in the name. And there are a few products today that we just make that don't have it in the name, but it's also in the formula, so it's always there. One would be our CRYSTALYX® Battalion® product that we use a lot for stressed animals and for receiving animals. And it’s even found some popularity in some herds to use that at calving time, the Battalion product. So, that's a good example of one. Another new one that we've got coming out here now is called Blueprint® All-in-One, and it’s got a higher phosphorus and a trace mineral fortification than some of the others, but it always has BIO-MOS 2 in it.

            And then our sheep and goat products, the Sheep-lyx® and the Goat-lyx®, always have the BIO-MOS 2 in them as well. So, that answers the other part of your question; yes, we do feed it for other species for sheep and goats primarily. And we’ve had excellent results there too.

Tom:    What kind of feedback are you getting from customers who’ve been feeding CRYSTALYX with BIO-MOS 2?

Jon:     Well, I think a lot of our recent testimonials that we received from producers in the country not only have talked about Blueprint, which we’ve talked about as well, but some of our Blueprint programs obviously contain the BIO-MOS 2 as well. And healthy calves is what we really hear the most of. People say these are healthy calves, they’re vigorous at birth, they get up shortly after birth, they start to nurse right away, they have more cold tolerance. You know, these are all things that people have been telling us. Not anything that we’re telling people, that we’re promising, but it’s just what they’re telling us. That’s the feedback that we're receiving. And you know, even cows in better body condition, and there is some science behind that as well, where some research that Alltech has done showed better body condition of cows through lactation, through breeding and up until the weaning of that calf. So, I’ve personally used it on our farm, as well with sheep, and I see a lot of the same types of benefits. Just more vigorous lambs at lambing time; they get up, they nurse right away and they’re just healthier.

Tom:    Jon, where can listeners go to find more information about available CRYSTALYX products with BIO-MOS 2?

Jon:     As always, one of the great resources is our website, crystalyx.com. There is a specific tab there where you can scroll in and find a list of the products with BIO-MOS 2 included. And you can also look at our CRYSTALYX supplement guide. We have some information in that as well.

Tom:    That’s Jon Albro, nutritionist with CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements. Thanks for joining us, Jon.

Jon:     Thank you, Tom. I appreciate it.