Don’t Feed the Fever

Don’t Feed the Fever


Don’t Feed the FeverKeeping cattle healthy — and encouraging quicker recovery from illness — helps animals direct their energy towards growth and production. Any disease challenge requires cattle to mount an immune response. In the zero-sum game of livestock production, this means resources are pulled away from building muscle mass or producing milk.

“It’s extremely important for us to provide the animal with the optimal environment and tools to maintain a healthy immune system,” says Ty Schmidt, Ph.D., PAS, Assistant Professor of Muscle Biology/Physiology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. “When we have an animal that mounts an immune response, it has to have enough energy to get the immune system going, fight the infection, then come back and continue producing.”

In beef cattle, there’s no more challenging time than after the stress of transportation. The industry has long battled bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) in newly received calves. In fact, the average pull rate for BRDC in feedlot cattle has remained around 30 percent for years, even with advances in vaccines and antibiotics to tackle both viral and bacterial BRDC causes.

Probiotics, such as ProTernative® (Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079) are gaining popularity as a tool to help support animals at risk for BRDC. The active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic has been proven to positively activate the immune system of cattle during times of stress by supporting bacterial communities in the lower intestinal tract.1

In a recent trial, Dr. Schmidt evaluated yearling steers supplemented with S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 for 28 days at two different levels compared to a control group. On day 29, animals were administered a challenge to stimulate an immune response.2 Throughout the trial cytokine production was measured, which is a protein produced by the immune system.

During the trial, when compared with the control, cattle who received S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 showed:

  • A decreased production in their cytokine profile, possibly suggesting a more effective or efficient immune response.
  • A decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, which indicates cattle were able to overcome the immune challenge at an effective rate.
  • Had a lower body temperature when compared to the control animals.


“When an animal is challenged with a pathogen there is a fever or febrile response, and that takes a massive amount of energy,” Dr. Schmidt says. “For an animal to increase its body temperature by 1-degree Celsius, it’s estimated it takes about a 13-percent increase in metabolic energy use.”

Steers supplemented with S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 had a much lower body temperature after the challenge. This suggests animals may be spending less energy fighting an immune challenge — allowing it to return to production cycle more quickly, Dr. Schmidt explains.

“This shows interesting benefits that could be significant for the beef and dairy industries,” Dr. Schmidt says. “It appeared the feed additive allowed animals to conserve energy and use less energy when mounting the febrile response. This could be a massive tool for us in the industry as we continue to find alternative solutions to minimize illness and other challenges.”

Learn more about the exciting new ProTernative® research data from Dr. Schmidt by watching this video:

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