Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
Holstein cows

WEBINAR: Take steps to control Clostridia.

Posted November 25, 2020 by Tom Rehberger, Ph.D., Director, Research and Product Development

Clostridia can be present in all areas of the dairy. It can live inside the gut of the calf or cow and therefore be present in manure. It can survive manure storage and, when spread on fields can live in soil through adverse weather events. When crops are harvested from that soil, any dirt or mud that gets kicked up on harvested plants stays with the forage and lives through the storage process. It then gets fed back to animals and the cycle continues.

Once an animal consumes feed contaminated with clostridia, the bacteria can be dormant inside the animal for some time. It only becomes pathogenic once the animal is compromised. Infections can cause off-feed events and loss in production. As the infection advances severe diarrhea, leaky gut and Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome can occur.

Even though clostridia is present in so many areas there are steps you can take to build a resilient herd by minimizing consumption by the animal and subsequent infection. 

Be clean.

Sanitize and disinfect areas where animals could be susceptible to disease. In calving areas, make sure pens are sanitized and disinfected before moving a new animal to the space. Sanitize and disinfect all equipment used to feed calves. For cows, keep maternity areas clean with dry bedding.

Cleanliness goes beyond the environment where cows and calves live. Since clostridia is consumed through contaminated feed, it is important to take precautions in the feeding area.

  • When forage storage is being filled, try to keep tires on packing tractors clean and free from mud brought in from the field.
  • Clean mixer wagons on a regular basis.
  • If you use a skidsteer to push up feed, make sure tires on the machine are clean. If you use a skidsteer to clean manure from alleys, do not use the same machine to push up feed.

Make more piles.

In an effort to save on labor, it’s common for forage storage piles to be defaced in the morning to provide enough forage for the day’s feedings. This leaves a pile of loose forage on the storage floor, open to the air and organisms that thrive in the presence of oxygen. As the bacteria consume the oxygen, the anerobic environment is ideal for clostridia to grow. Avoid this by defacing forage piles more frequently and only creating piles you can feed quickly.

Feed frequently.

Dairies that feed once per day can be susceptible to clostridia contamination. A total mixed ration (TMR) that sits in the feedbunk for a long time provides an opportunity for yeast to metabolize and eat up the oxygen in the pile. This creates a perfect anaerobic environment for clostridia growth. Combat this by feeding more often to reduce the chance for yeast to proliferate.

Add feed ingredients.

CERTILLUS contains Bacillus, traditionally used to target toxigenic and non-toxigenic clostridia. Research1 shows that bacillus strains found in CERTILLUS can increase the types of proteins used to tighten junctions between cells responsible for creating a barrier that prevents pathogenic bacteria, like C. perfringens, from entering the animal.

The positive impact of feeding CERTILLUS includes more consistent feed intakes and fewer off feed events. This leads to a decrease in issues resulting from a compromised GI tract, and subsequently fewer cows in the sick pen. A healthier herd translates to higher production, including more pounds of milk and associated components.

Build resiliency.

While clostridia are present in many areas on the dairy, there are steps you can take to build resiliency against clostridia and avoid calves and cows from ingesting the pathogen and becoming infected. For more information on how to assess the clostridia challenge on your dairy, visit with your Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production representative.

1 Lillejoj et. al., 2017. USDA Beltsville

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