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Protect the immune system with nutritional defense

Brian Fieser for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 October 2019

If you have a favorite sports team, it is likely that at some point you have thought a certain player either needed to make major improvements or be replaced in order to fix a weakness and win more games.

It is up to the general manager and owner of that team to assess players’ strengths and weaknesses and to identify areas for improvement. They must determine whether the additional cost of an upgrade is going to be worth the expense to make the team better.

This situation is much the same as when an owner and manager of a cattle operation work together to determine what can be done to improve their herd’s health.

Something critical for owners and managers to understand is that the immune system is like a fortress that protects against outside invasion. It uses mechanisms to recognize and repel harmful agents, and it also works to neutralize any agents that breach its initial defenses, preventing sickness and reducing the potential for death loss. Skin and hair are commonly thought of as being critical components of front-line defenses.

The lining of the respiratory system is also part of the front-line defense and is a highly targeted entry point for pathogens, as evidenced by the tremendous economic losses the cattle industry faces due to respiratory disease. However, we often overlook the important contributions of the digestive tract in immune defenses. The digestive tract is essential for digestion and absorption of critical nutrients, and a significant portion of immune mechanisms reside in the digestive tract lining as well.

Experts in the animal health and nutrition field are working to develop and improve nutritional strategies that factor in the microbiota population of the gastrointestinal tract, which can impact nutrient digestion and gut health. Yeast and yeast components are key areas of research with focus on how yeast can alter the colonization of gut microbes. Through this research, Pichia guilliermondii (PgY, a unique, whole-cell, inactivated yeast) has been shown to adhere to gut pathogens and modulate the immune system, helping the animal fortify its defenses against health challenges that occur during a stress event.

Another study from 2018 showed significantly better aggregation to Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica than S. cerevisiae or hydrolyzed S. cerevisiae. This tells us that not all yeasts are created equal. Research done at the INAFAP government livestock research facility showed that cattle receiving PgY exhibited statistically lower incidences of all measures relative to a coccidiosis challenge. Yeasts, along with botanicals and extracts, have demonstrated value for affecting barrier functions of the gut lining and helping minimize inflammation. Generally, modulating the inflammatory response can result in better animal performance while maintaining a level of immune protection. Pichia guilliermondii can easily be added to feedstuffs to deliver this additional level of protection.

When we think about the role of the digestion tract and nutrition in herd health, we tend to focus on the absorption of critical nutrient components such as amino acids, minerals and vitamins. However, it is just as important to evaluate our “team” for opportunities to improve in new ways. In the case of benefiting the immune system, yeasts are an excellent consideration for strengthening the herd’s defenses – and as the saying goes, you can’t win championships without a great defense!  end mark

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Brian Fieser
  • Brian Fieser

  • ADM Animal Nutrition Inc.