John Doerr, Ph.D., PAS, Dpl. ACAP
Vice President, Science and Technology
We put a lot of emphasis on protecting cows from the impacts of fungal toxins in feed. We’re interested in reproductive success, the general health of the cow, and obtaining favorable milk production and constituents. On calving, we pay a lot of attention to getting that newborn through the first 3-4 weeks of life with good growth, good health, and without scours! But do you sense that there may be an element missing from that sequence?
I was delighted to read an article in Dairy Herd Daily (June 10, by Maureen Hanson) that gave a synopsis of a presentation by one of my past colleagues (Geoffrey Dahl). Geoff was telling about the impacts of nutrition, disease challenges, and heat stress on fetal development and post birth performance. I’m not a nutritionist; I’ll leave that discipline to others. But I understand disease challenge and stress. Essentially, Geoff reported on dams given an immune challenge 50 days prior to calving; subsequently, their calves and a group of control calves were given the same challenge at 240 days of age. Calves whose dams were compromised immunologically had worse responses to the challenges themselves. In related studies, the effects on offspring were transferred to their offspring as much as two generations. Can you find me a producer who would be okay with paying for a feeding mistake three generations forward in his herd?
I’m trying to think of any major mycotoxin that hasn’t undergone pretty thorough study for impacts on immunity (or producing conditions essentially identical to other stresses). None come to mind. And many, at levels low enough that we don’t see many overt issues with the cows (e.g., repro, performance, general health), cause adverse changes in portions of the immune system. It follows, then, that dairymen should be considering the implications of mycotoxins, not just for the current milking herd, but for the prospects for the next generation or two of heifers. In a nutshell, what they invest today in protecting their herd from multiple mycotoxin attacks not only keeps today’s performance at its best but helps ensure that those forward generations prosper too.
Are you currently using Select DTX or BioCycle Plus for toxin challenges? Good for you! Don’t back down. If you aren’t, shouldn’t you be considering this very broad-spectrum, high performing insurance against toxins? For probably less money than you really spend on clays, yeasts, etc. for a so-so job, you can get the best, and some feed testing done for you at no charge. Your next generations of calves are depending on it.