Promising Probiotic for Dairy Cattle Heads to Marketplace

A probiotic developed at the University of Alberta is the first of its kind to have widespread benefits for dairy cows, and is starting to make its way into the marketplace.

Immunobiologist Burim Ametaj, a professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, says his research on the breakthrough probiotic is showing several benefits for milk cows before and after giving birth. 

“The scientific results are amazing in terms of proactively lowering several important reproduction-related diseases in dairy cattle,” he says.

The preventative product is designed to keep the animal’s reproductive tract healthy and protected from infection. 

The probiotic, which took 10 years to develop in the lab, is drawn from three native bacterial strains found in the reproductive tract of healthy cows. 

Microbiologist Michael Gänzle, who also worked on the research project, was able to identify the particular strains of lactic acid bacteria, considered “good” bacteria. 

The probiotics were then tested between 2008 and 2018 in three large projects using dairy cows from the U of A’s Dairy Research and Technology Centre and from stock on four commercial Alberta dairy farms.

Boosting beneficial bacteria

The probiotic works by supplying beneficial bacteria to the microbiome, the collection of microorganisms that live in the reproductive system of the animal, including the uterus, vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries. 

“The presence of more good bacteria helps prevent reproductive health issues from developing,” Ametaj notes.

The research showed that the probiotic’s use contributed to a 50 per cent reduction in post-calving uterine infections. It also lowered the rate of milk fever by half and reduced the incidence of placenta retention. All of these conditions are costly to dairy producers and sometimes deadly. The probiotic also reduced inflammation causing lameness.

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