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South African Journal of Animal Science

On-line version ISSN 2221-4062
Print version ISSN 0375-1589

S. Afr. j. anim. sci. vol.39 n.5 Pretoria Jan. 2009


3.7.2. Dairy cattle

Production responses to drenching with strain 41125 are most comprehensively reported in the study of Aikman (Aikman, 2008; Aikman et al., 2009b). In a 2 × 2 factorial design, cows in a 14-week production study were fed either a standard (D) or an acidosis challenge (Ac) diet and dosed either with a placebo (P) or Megasphaera (strain 41125) (M). In a 1 - 28 day post-partum ruminal fermentation study the Ac diet with or without strain 41125 was studied further. Results of the production study in Table 9 are reported for all cows (n = 80) and for the highest milk-producers (presumably more vulnerable to SARA) (n = 32; producing more than 10000 L/lactation). To have comparable data with the ruminal fermentation study, the authors also evaluated the production data of the high milk-producers between days 1 and 21 post-partum.

Dietary effects for most observations were significant (Table 9), as expected. Milk yield did not differ significantly between the placebo and strain 41125 administered treatments, but the high milk-producing cows on AcM tended to produce more milk than the high milk-producing cows on AcP, whereas the opposite was true for SM vs. SP (P = 0.08). When tested between days 1 and 21 post-partum, i.e. corresponding to the period of rapid increasing intake of concentrates, the high milk-producers dosed with strain 41125 had higher milk yields than the high milk-producers dosed with a placebo (P = 0.001), a result which was repeated for the high milk-producers in the ruminal fermentation trial (P = 0.05). The higher milk yields on AcM reflected in better efficiencies of production, partly because DM intake was lower, as discussed under section 3.5, and probably also because rumen fermentation enhanced propionic acid production (Aikman et al., 2009a). Propionic acid is a recognized glucose precursor in milk synthesis.

Corresponding milk yield results have been found by Erasmus as reported by Hagg et al. (2009), although in that trial the difference carried through to 80 days post-partum. With all 60 cows the difference between +strain 41125 and -strain 41125 approached significance (P = 0.10; 35.1 L/day vs. 33.1 L/day). With the 20 highest milk-producers on the higher energy diet, those on +strain 41125 produced 39.3 L/day vs. 35.9 L/day for cows on -strain 41125 (P = 0.06), in contrast to the 20 cows on the lower energy diet (35.2 L/day vs. 34 8 L/day) where the difference was not significant (P = 0.82). Thus, as with the Aikman (2008) results, the high milk-producing cows on the higher energy diet benefitted most from the administration of strain 41125. The results of Hagg et al. (2010) for high milk-producers in a similarly designed trial were not significantly different but did show corresponding trends. The average milk yields on their lower energy concentration diet were respectively 42.3 L/day for -strain 41125 and 43.7 L/day for +strain 41125, whereas on their high energy diet the yields were respectively 46.6 L/day for -strain 41125 and 47,8 L/day for +strain 41125. In conclusion, the three studies suggest that with strain 41125 drenching it is possible to feed TMR's with higher energy concentrations than what is normally recommended, to the benefit of milk yield of high producing cows.

On the AcM treatment of Aikman (Aikman, 2008; Aikman et al., 2009b) milk fat percentage in high producers (Table 9) was reduced in both the production trial and the ruminal fermentation trial, which partially can be explained by a lower acetate - propionate ratio (Aikman et al., 2009a) and the milk yield time-associated inverse relationship between milk yield and milk fat concentration. Hagg et al. (2009) reported the opposite in the Erasmus study, with the +strain 41125 treatments showing higher milk fat percentages, but with a significant treatment × dietary interaction, whereas Hagg et al. (2010) reported no significant difference in milk composition parameters. One suspects that fermentation substrate in the rumen is the main variable explaining the difference: Aikman fed barley and wheat as primary energy sources, Erasmus steam flaked sorghum and maize meal and Hagg et al. (2010) only maize meal.

Body weights and body condition score did not differ due to drenching treatment (Table 9). However, the change in body weight with lactation of the higher producers did, respectively, more positive for the higher energy diet (P = 0.02) and more positive for strain 41125 dosed cows. In support, Hagg et al. (2009) reported higher body weights (P = 0.02) and condition scores (P = 0.02) for strain 41125 dosed cows on the higher energy concentration diet, suggesting that because body reserves recover quickly, recycling and inter-calf period may benefit from drenching with strain 41125. These interpretations warrant further research.

In farm trials milk yield responses after drenching cows with strain 41125 are inconsistent, probably because of limited degrees of freedom and varying environments, management and feeding conditions. The results, adjusted to 305 day predicted values, are presented in Table 10.

The overall average for 305 day predicted milk yields in Table 10 is 9544 kg for Control and 9541 kg for strain 41125 dosed cows, suggesting no benefits carried through to total lactation yields. Three comments are warranted: 1) If peak yields of Farm 1 are observed, the prediction to 305 day production with estimated breeding value as covariate might not have been as accurate as hoped for; 2) If so, it does appear that the response of heifers is variable, but cows primarily benefitted which may be expected, because some effects of SARA are cumulative; 3) The farmers participating in the investigation did not use high energy diets, which the on-station trials (Table 9) showed, are required if cows are to benefit from administration of strain 41125.

3.7.3. Sheep

The utilisation of maize residues by sheep after harvesting is a general practice by farmers in South Africa. Harvesting procedures waste a substantial amount of maize kernels which the sheep prefer in the first 1 - 2 weeks of introduction to the residues, often resulting in ruminal acidosis. Farmers manage the practice by providing hay and supplements before they expose the sheep to the residues, with variable success. The question is whether drenching with strain 41125 instead of adaptation to a concentrate supplement beforehand can prevent acidosis or mitigate the effects. Three on farm trials were conducted with weight gain as indicator; the results are summarized in Table 11.

Drenching with strain 41125 significantly improved weight gains of wethers and post-weaned lambs and reduced weight loss of ewes suckling lambs (Table 11). The suckling lambs apparently also benefitted, even though they were not dosed. In one of the comparisons on Farm 3, weaned lambs were dosed with rumen fluid of sheep adapted to maize feeding (Control) and compared with weaned lambs dosed with strain 41125. The lambs dosed with strain 41125 exhibited higher weight gains (P = 0.02) than the lambs which received rumen fluid. Health of the sheep was also improved: on Farm 1, 2% mortalities and 0.7% morbidities were recorded for Control and zero for both parameters on strain 41125 and on Farm 3, 8.9% mortalities were recorded for ewes on Control and 2.5% for ewes dosed with strain 41125. The results suggest that drenching sheep with strain 41125 before they enter harvested or un-harvested maize fields should be beneficial to health and productivity.

For sheep fed in feedlot simulation at experimental station in trials with small numbers, there is evidence that, as with feedlot cattle, feed efficiency and carcass growth may benefit from strain 41125 drenching by a small margin. The results of Henning & Steyn (1995) (Trial 1), Steyn & Henning (1996) (Trial 2) and Henning et al. (2010a) (Trial 3) at Irene are shown in Table 12.


4. General comments and conclusions

In terms of ability to control lactic acid accumulation in the rumen strain 41125 appears to be more successful than the DFM's cited. It also seems at least on par with in-feed antibiotics that inhibit growth of lactate-producing bacteria, which implies that it could be a worthy substitute once in-feed antibiotics, as in the EU, are banned elsewhere. Adaptation to concentrate diets is enhanced by drenching with strain 41125, which coincides with less roughage required. Production responses in feedlot cattle appear to be of the same order as for other DFM's, but conclusive data are lacking. Milk production is enhanced in the early stages of lactation, but milk composition responses appear to be influenced by TMR composition. Health and production of sheep introduced to maize fields without prior adaptation is improved. In relation to future investigations: 1) The synergism with selected antibiotics and possibly other DFM's provide the opportunity that the benefits of strain 41125 can be exploited further to optimise responses under different environmental and production systems; 2) There may be further production responses with strategic drenching of strain 41125 or in exploiting the long term competitive survival of the organism in the rumen, either in the absence or presence of synergistic products.



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