The new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) seeks to help prevent food safety issues in both humans and animals through preventative controls throughout all levels of production, storage and distribution. Part of the fallout of FSMA relates to the topic of antibiotic use in meat animals. With debate still ongoing, one thing is clear: Reliance on antibiotic use in food animals is on a downward trend. With this in mind, it is going to be more important than ever to build strong immune systems in our calves through sound nutrition.
The close relationship between nutrition and health
While overall nutrition is important for maintaining health, there are several key trace minerals that are typically deficient in the diet that play critical roles in the development and maintenance of the immune system in calves. These key minerals are copper, zinc and selenium.
Copper is needed for proper development of antibodies and white blood cells in addition to antioxidant enzyme production. Copper-deficient cattle are more susceptible to infections and do not respond as well to vaccinations. In addition, they tend to be less resistant to parasitic challenge. Studies have shown that cattle receiving proper copper nutrition tend to be less susceptible to infections and have less severe infections when disease does occur.
Zinc plays an important role in the maintenance of skin, gastrointestinal linings and the linings of the respiratory system. These are the body’s first defense against bacterial, viral and parasitic invaders. Additionally, zinc is crucial in non-specific immunity from neutrophils and phagocytic cells and antioxidant activity. Zinc is also necessary for the development of antibodies needed for specific immunity.
Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E in the removal of free radicals via antioxidant activity and is critical for phagocytic cell function in non-specific immunity. Research has shown that selenium-deficient cells are less able to kill pathogens. Selenium-deficient animals are less able to respond to a specific invader and have lowered antibody titers.
Since much of a calf’s body stores of trace minerals are obtained in utero, especially during the last trimester, nutrition of the dam is crucial for the calf’s immunity. The dam’s nutritional status affects the calf in two ways: first, it affects the quality of the colostrum she is able to offer for passive immunity; second, it provides necessary building blocks for when the calf’s body develops its own immunity.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that stress has a direct negative effect on immune function. For example, it has been shown that phagocytes do not respond normally to infection in the presence of cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Prolonged stress has been shown to actually increase an animal’s mineral requirements. It’s important to keep high-quality supplements in front of the cows even after calving as the cows need to replenish body stores to prepare for breeding. Calves also need access to supplements, since some minerals, such as copper, are not transferred in milk in appreciable quantities. High-quality supplements will give them the building blocks they need for a strong immune system.
Blueprint® Nutrition Program
When it comes to high-quality supplements, Blueprint is the pinnacle. New Blueprint mineral supplements offer these critical trace minerals in 100 percent organic, chelated forms from Bioplex® and Sel-Plex®. Bioplex and Sel-Plex are designed in the same form found in plants and are better absorbed, stored and utilized than inorganic mineral sources. Better mineral retention improves tissue reserves, which is critically important in immune function.
Use of targeted levels of Bioplex metal proteinates and Sel-Plex selenium yeast allows managers to actually supplement LESS but retain equal or greater productivity as using elevated levels of inorganic sulfates and oxides. Greater bioavailablity means less waste and greater efficiency.
In summary, maximizing immune function via nutrition, especially trace mineral nutrition, is going to become increasingly important in beef production. High-quality Blueprint mineral supplements deliver essential minerals and vitamins to cattle in a highly palatable and weather-resistant form. For cows and calves coming out of a stressful winter and spring, consider one of the Blueprint mineral supplements that best meets your needs.
Ask for SWEETLIX by name at your local SWEETLIX dealer or call 1-87-SWEETLIX for more information.
Blueprint®, Bioplex® and Sel-plex® are registered trademarks of Alltech