Most cattle must go through the stress associated with weaning. For beef producers, preconditioning can help prepare animals for health challenges that go along with weaning — and earn premiums at the same time.

“We know stressful situations like weaning can make calves more vulnerable to disease. Preconditioning is all about building the health of the calf prior to sale time,” says Angel Aguilar, Ph.D., Dipl. ACAN, Technical Services Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Preconditioning pays because buyers get healthy calves that are ready to gain on arrival. Today, many producers want to add on to their preconditioning premiums by participating in natural programs or by lessening the costs associated with treatment of disease.”

Basic preconditioning programs should include: vaccinations, deworming, balanced nutrition and management to help prevent disease and prepare cattle for eating from feed bunks. Dr. Aguilar recommends producers review Beef Quality Assurance™ (BQA) guidelines each year as a refresher on tried-and-true cattle handling techniques that help reduce stress and management tips that retain quality.

With this foundation in place, it may be time to think about new ways to help cattle prepare for the stress of weaning. For these producers, Dr. Aguilar suggests adding a proven probiotic to help naturally activate the immune system of cattle during times of stress. The right probiotic can help initiate an active process of stimulating microflora, which enhances lower gut health and interacts with the immune system.

Not all probiotics have this effect, he warns. ProTernative®, one specific strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 , is proven to activate the immune system of cattle during times of stress. It is a naturally occurring active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic with research to support its use in weaned calves.

In one study, newly weaned heifers fed S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 demonstrated improved meal patterns, which allowed for a more uniform level of feed intake. The heifers showed a 0.42 lbs. per day greater average daily gain (ADG) compared to controls during the first 28 days.1

In addition to benefits in ADG, probiotics like S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 are compatible with any management program, from natural to conventional. Probiotics also can be used any time a stressful situation occurs, even long after weaning.

“Using proven probiotics is a win-win,” Dr. Aguilar says. “Producers get health benefits while retaining premiums and decreasing the need for treatment. Reducing the negative effects of stress during critical times like weaning can benefit everyone.”