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Selko | Transition Management


The impact of calcium gluconate on volatile fatty acid levels in the hindgut of cattle

Key take-away messages

  • Selko LactiBute contains rumen protected calcium gluconate which has a prebiotic effect in the hindgut of cattle
  • Feeding Selko LactiBute resulted in an increase of volatile fatty acids in the hindgut
  • Increased levels of butyrate in the hindgut can improve hindgut health and reduce the risk of "leaky gut" in dairy cows

Selko LactiBute has a prebiotic effect resulting in an increase of VFA

Digestive adaptation is crucial for a successful transition to lactation of dairy cows. Hindgut health can have a big impact on digestive adaptation. Hindgut fermentation of excessive carbohydrate can result in hindgut acidosis, disturbance of the gastrointestinal microbiota and a reduction of gut barrier function, leading to a phenomenon called “leaky gut” of dairy cows[1] . As a result of leaky gut, bacterial endotoxins can reach the blood circulation. This causes systemic inflammation and activation of the immune system[2] , with a significant energy cost for the dairy cow. Systemic immune activation also causes a reduction of dry matter intake[3] , which can have a further negative impact on the transition to lactation of dairy cows.

Risk factors for hindgut acidosis are the same as those for ruminal acidosis. Symptoms traditionally associated with rumen acidosis, such as loose and frothy faeces with mucin casts are also observed in dairy cows suffering from hindgut acidosis[4] .

Effect of rumen protected calcium gluconate on hindgut VFA profile

Nutritional interventions aimed at reducing the risk of hindgut acidosis in dairy cows should target the hindgut[5] . Trials with Selko LactiBute, containing rumen protected calcium gluconate have shown to improve gut barrier function, to change the volatile fatty acid profile in faeces and to increase milk production of dairy cows[6,7,8,9] . A trial was carried out by Dr. Todd Callaway at the University of Georgia, to test the impact of Selko LactiBute on hindgut VFA profile.

Material and methods

Two groups of 10 steers each were included in the trial. Age of the animals at the start of the trial was around 13 months, initial bodyweight was 449 +/- 10 kg. Both groups were on a diet of 75% rolled corn, 10% corn gluten feed, 7% soyhull pellets, 6% soybean meal and 0.5% urea. After an adaptation period of 3 days, one of the 2 groups was fed Selko LactiBute at a dose of 16 grams/animal/day for a period of 7 days. The other group served as controls. At slaughter, tissue samples and digesta samples of rumen, duodenum, ileum, cecum, and colon were taken. Volatile fatty acid levels were measured and the microbiome was determined.

Results, microbiome of the hindgut

A clear shift towards butyrate producing bacteria was seen in the ceacum and colon.

Gut section
Rumen Duodenum Ileum Cecum Colon Rectum
Acetate LAC 56.17 3.32 29 79.7a 56.4 52.7a
CON 57.63 2.29 24.3 61.8b 35.6 32.0b
P-val 0.88 0.24 0.69 0.01 0.08 0.02
Propionate LAC 41.5 -- 8.86 28.79a 21.2a 18.6a
CON 42.3 0.06 4.96 17.86b 11.3b 9.09b
P-val 0.90 0.19 0.43 0.02 0.05 0.01
Butyrate LAC 8.8 -- 3.59 14.1 9.13 6.82
CON 10.68 -- 4.51 13.1 4.9 6.85
P-val 0.55 -- 0.70 0.78 0.10 0.99
Isobutyrate LAC 0.98 -- 0.12 0.61 0.40 0.18
CON 1.02 -- 0.13 0.69 0.37 0.2
P-val 0.91 -- 0.88 0.38 0.90 0.85

Table 1: Levels of acetate, propionate, butyrate and isobutyrate in rumen, duodenum, ileum, caecum, colon and rectum of steers fed Selko LactiBute containing rumen protected calcium gluconate vs. controls.Volatile fatty acid values in bold are statistically significant.

Results, volatile fatty acid profile in the hindgut

Volatile fatty acid (VFA) profiles are presented in Table 1. VFA profiles in rumen, duodenum and ileum did not change, but adding Selko LactiBute to the diet resulted in an increase of acetate and propionate levels in ceacum, colon and rectum. Butyrate levels tended to be higher in the colon (p= 0.10).


These results indicated that rumen protected calcium gluconate has a prebiotic effect in the hindgut and can be used to manipulate the microbial population to increase VFA production.

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References about improving hindgut health of dairy cows

  1. Horst, E.A, Mayorga, E.J, Rodriguez-Jimenez, S, Abeyta, M.A, Goetz, B.M, Carta, S, Al-Qaisi, M, Kvidera, S.K. and L. H. Baumgard (2019). Causes and Metabolic Consequences of Leaky Gut. 2019 Cornell Nutrition Conference Proceedings.
  2. Trevisi E., Massimo A., Cogrossi S., Bertoni G (2011). Metabolic stress and inflammatory response in high-yielding, periparturient dairy cows. Research in Veterinary Science 93(2):695-704.
  3. Kushibiki, S., Hodate, K Shingu, H, Obara, Y, Touno, E, Shinoda, M, and Y. Yokomizo. (2003). Metabolic and lactational responses during recombinant bovine tumor necrosis factor-α treatment in lactating cows. J. Dairy Sci. 86:819–827.
  4. Li, S, Khafipour, E, Krause, D.O, Kroeker, A, Rodriguez-Lecompte, J, Gozho, G.N. and J. C. Plaizier (2012). Effects of subacute ruminal acidosis challenges on fermentation and endotoxins in the rumen and hindgut of dairy cows, J. Dairy Sci. 95:294–303.
  5. Sanz-Fernandez, M.V, Daniel, J, Seymour, D.J, Kvidera, S.K, Bester, Z, Doelman, J. and J. Martín-Tereso (2020). Targeting the Hindgut to Improve Health and Performance in Cattle, Animals, 10: 1817.
  6. Watanabe, D.H.M, Doelman, J, Steele, M.A, Guan, L. and G. B. Penner (2020). Evaluating the effect of Ca-gluconate and Ca-butyrate on SCFA absorption and permeability of the gastrointestinal tract. J. Anim. Sci Vol. 97, Suppl. S3.
  7. McKnight, L.L, Doelman, J, Carson, M, Waterman, D.F. and J. A. Metcalf (2018). Feeding and postruminal infusion of calcium gluconate to lactating dairy cows. Can. J. Anim. Sci.
  8. Doelman, J, McKnight, L.L, Carson, M, Nichols, K, Waterman, D.F. and J. A. Metcalf (2019). Post-ruminal infusion of calcium gluconate increases milk fat production and alters fecal volatile fatty acid profile in lactating dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 102:1274–1280.