The importance of gut health and milk fat production

There are over 100 trillion microorganism harboured in the human body. These microbes are collectively called the microbiome and are distributed throughout the body where they perform a number of vital functions that we cannot perform ourselves. The greatest number of microbiomes reside in the largest organ: the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).

The GIT represents the digestive organs, most importantly the small and large intestine. These regions of the GIT are similar to the Great Wall of China. The tissues serve as an expansive defensive barrier with a complex network of gate openings. The physical barrier provides protection from the invasion of infectious agents and pathogens, while the gate openings control the update of nutrients and the exit of waste. The resident microbiome represents the communities of soldiers that reinforce the barrier through communication with the host and by providing energy to sustain the tissues. One can appreciate that maintenance of the GIT is essential to life and overall health.

Dairy cattle also have a microbiome, the largest of which lives in the rumen. The rumen microbiome is a major contributor to animal efficiency, enabling the cow to digest plant materials that cannot be digested by other animals. The role that GIT microbiome play in dairy cow production has not received as much attention of that in the rumen however the functional similarities of the GIT microbiome in dairy cows and non-ruminants has brought about a renewed interest in understanding how the GIT influences cow health and productivity. Enhancing the function of the GIT and its microbiome may unlock the key to optimal animal efficiency.

Studies in pigs and humans have shown that calcium gluconate has beneficial effects on the GIT. More specifically, calcium gluconate stimulates the growth of GIT bacteria and these bacteria produce more butyrate, a fatty acid that provides energy to the GIT and strengthens the cells that comprise the defensive barrier.

In controlled studies conducted by Trouw Nutrition R&D, lactating cows supplemented with calcium gluconate were observed to have significant increases in milk fat yield.

A healthier gut allows the cows to spend less of their available resources on maintaining their gut integrity (i.e. fighting off bacteria) so she has more resources available to help with milk production. Put simply, it is a reallocation of resources towards milk production. We know more milk production equals more milk fat production.

Contact our team of Dairy Nutrition Advisors to see how we can help you increase your milk fat production and maximize your milk cheque.


For more information please contact our team of Dairy Nutrition Advisors or your local Shur-Gain dealer.