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Clostridia Challenges and Management Strategies

Bobbi Bailey, PhD

Animal Nutrition Specialist, MarSyt

Bobbi Bailey, PhD

Animal Nutrition Specialist, MarSyt

With the wet weather that occurred in many parts of the region this spring, making quality

haylage was challenging. One of the most important factors for making high quality haylage is

moisture. At a high moisture level (> 65 percent), there is an increased risk of butyric acid

formation, which is indicative of clostridic fermentation. This improper fermentation leads to

increased dry matter loss, excessive protein breakdown, an elevation in pH, rancid odors and

poor performance with potential negative health impacts when fed to high-producing dairy cows.

In addition to moisture, another important factor for making high quality haylage is

contamination. Soil contamination accumulates indigestible ash and increases the potential for

clostridia species. Clostridial bacteria are widespread in the environment (primarily in the soil)

and are easily transferred to feedstuffs by any activity that incorporates dirt into the harvested

crop. Clostridia then make their way into rations and ultimately, into cows. As manure is applied

to fields, clostridia organisms are returned to the soil and the cycle continues.

While improved management strategies and bacterial silage inoculants can successfully control

clostridia species that produce butyric acid in silage (e.g., butyricum, tyrobutyricum, sporogenes,

etc.), other species can have negative impacts on gut health and efficiency thereby decreasing

animal performance. Clostridium perfringens from contamination may also be present and can

have significant effects on high-producing dairy cows. Clostridium perfringens type A, has been

linked to Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome (HBS). While this organism is quite abundant and

generally considered to be innocuous, it can become problematic when animals are faced with

stress or challenges or other circumstances that set up a favorable growth environment for

bacteria to proliferate and produce potent toxins.

Reducing the risk of clostridial issues can be accomplished by instituting some preventative

measures. First, harvest at proper moisture content and reduce soil contamination by raising the

cutter bar and slowing mower speeds. Second, focus on nutritional management and maintaining

gut health. The nutritional and health status of cattle are directly related to gut health which

includes immune system, gut microbial balance and integrity of the gut. Digestion, absorption of

nutrients, resistance to disease and immune system status are all affected by how healthy the

gastrointestinal tract is.

Feed ingredients, such as Hilyses hydrolyzed yeast, which contains a full dosage of yeast culture,

mannan oligosaccharides (MOS), free mannose sugar, and beta-glucans, are an important

addition to the dairy cow diet for maintaining gut health and immune function. Aside from the

yeast culture, which keeps the rumen healthy during times of stress, the presence of MOS in

Hilyses acts as a prebiotic and helps maintain and balance healthy hind-gut microbes while free

mannose helps to reduce bacterial pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli and Clostridia. The betaglucans

provided by Hilyses not only help lower the effects of any mycotoxin challenges present

in the gut, but also help to stimulate the immune system in order to fight off disease.

Because of the large amount of feed animals consume each day, even low levels of clostridia per

pound of feed quickly add up. When bacterial loads increase, animal production may decline and

the risk for disease can increase. By practicing proper harvest and storage of forages and

ensuring a healthy rumen microflora and immune system by feeding a hydrolyzed yeast such as

Hilyses, you can reduce your risk of having clostridial issues.

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