Probiotics lift herd health

Kyle Wheeler (right) and his partner Aliesha Cook say their family’s Girgarre herd in northern Victoria has responded strongly to adding probiotics to their diet. Photo: Brooke Somerville. Photo by Brooke Somerville

Notably improved herd health and increased production have impressed the Wheeler family after introducing probiotics to their northern Victorian herd.

The 235-hectare dairy farm, which milks 450 cows at Girgarre through a 20-a-side double-up herringbone with automatic cup removers, is home for Russell and Robyn Wheeler and their sons, Corey and Kyle, together with Kyle’s partner Aliesha Cook.

Aliesha, who manages the herd with Kyle, said she approached Australian Probiotic Solutions early in 2021 after reading about some of its results and reviews on Facebook.

Originally they were interested in a lead feed for calving, but after talking with APS’s Mark Moylan, they decided to dive right in — adding a direct-fed microbial (BioPro Probiotics) to their home-crushed grain (5kg/cow/day) for the milking herd.

Changing the mix

BioPro Probiotics is made from a combination of 11 biological compounds, five selected strains of probiotic bacteria and a specific strain of active live dry yeast — Saccharomyces cerevisiae — which stimulates cellulose-digesting bacteria, improving fibre digestibility and rumen development. (The probiotic bacteria are micro-encapsulated, to reach the lower gastrointestinal tract for improved immune function and the competitive exclusion of pathogens.)

Finally, a blend of five digestive enzymes in BioPro supports feed breakdown, allowing more surface area for microbes to work on. APS also tailored a trace mineral pack, which included Bloat Shield, to complete the BioPro Probiotics.

“We had had some problems with our previous calving with milk fever; we had to pull a fair few calves, and we also had some retained membranes and mastitis,” Aliesha said.

“We felt the cows were always a bit lacking in something, and they weren’t coming fully onto their milk after calving like you’d expect them to.”

More cows cudding

Aliesha said the results had been exactly what they were looking for.

“They are so much better,” she said.

“The herd is in better condition, production is up ... we’re averaging about 29 litres.

“Their coats are shiny — their white is white, their black is black — and, they have calved-in and got on to their milk so much better.”

APS’s Mark Moylan said the strength of the company’s yeast, combined with the enzymes, good bacteria and minerals — sourced from Japan, North America and Austria — was without precedent. And with that comes unprecedented responses.

“My rule of thumb when I first walk through a herd is to pick out 10 cows,” he said.

“Of them, you should have at least six or seven chewing their cud. When we first visited the Wheelers, I noted around four were chewing their cud.

“The other day after almost five months on the BioPro, it was eight out of 10. I wasn’t surprised because I see this response all the time in our clients’ herds.

“It’s the first sign of improved rumination, and it’s great to be part of these positive transformations.”

Benefits for calves

The Wheelers have also incorporated probiotics in their calf sheds.

Aliesha rears 270 head a year (including some bull beef).

BioCalf is added to their milk every day at the rate of 1g/calf. It offers a daily in-milk dose of high-performance micro-encapsulated multi-strain probiotic that promotes immunity, recovery and improves digestion.

Aliesha also swears by BioBoost paste — a probiotic oral treatment paste — with the addition of vitamin E for new, stressed or sick calves. They also offer OptiGuard, a premium, finely milled zeolite product for treating diarrhoea in calves.

Aliesha said there was no going back for them now.

“They are great products, APS has been amazing for us, and I would highly recommend their range to anybody.”