Probiotic for dairy cattle heads for commercialization

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A probiotic developed at the University of Alberta (U of A) that supports milk cows before and after calving is heading towards being commercially available in Canada.

Burim Ametaj, immunobiologist and professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences at the U of A, says this is the first of its kind to be commercialized.

The product is sourced from three native bacterial strains, considered “good bacteria,” found in the reproductive tract of healthy cows. It works by supplying beneficial bacterial to the cow’s microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that live in the reproductive system of the animal, including the uterus, vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

The probiotics were 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.

The research suggests 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. The probiotic also reduced inflammation causing lameness, researchers say.

In addition, test cows that received the probiotic increased milk yield by four-to-six litres per day in the first 50 days after calving. In addition, calves also benefited, as those born to probiotic-treated cows had higher weight and better immunity four-weeks after birth.

The research results, confirmed by other dairy scientists worldwide, speak to the power of probiotics, says Ametaj.

“Bacteria are a major contributor to many animal diseases, and we’ve now shown that using probiotics is an excellent way of treating disease,” Ametaj adds.

The probiotic will be marketed as ProPreg, and available through Healthy Cow Corporation, a new start-up. Small-scale sales have started in the United States, with plans to make the product available to Canadian dairy farmers within two years.

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