Supporting Normal with Probiotics

Dr. Steve Lerner, Head of Marketing North America Animal Health & Nutrition Chr Hansen, Inc.

Dr. Steve Lerner

According to the American Institute of Stress, a popular definition of stress is “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize” ( On the list of situations that cause us negative stress, or distress, are financial problems and work difficulties.  While these are situations to which most, if not all, adults can relate, perhaps it’s more relevant to consider those situations that cause distress among producers of animals and crops. According to a survey by the Farm Bureau, when asked to respond to the following question, “Based on what you know, how much do you think each of the following impacts the mental health of farmers?”,  a strong majority of farmers/farm workers reported that financial issues (91%), fear of losing the farm (87%), and farm or business problems (88%) had the greatest impact on the mental health of farmers. ( .

Wouldn’t it be great to believe that there are choices that can be made on farm that would demonstrably improve your financial situations, reduce your problems, and improve your confidence in keeping the farm for your children and grandchildren.  Choices that, in short, result in the production of normal feed and normal animals, and gave you back a normal life.

If you’re a dairy farmer, then growing forages, especially corn is an essential part of the job. Sewing the seeds and reaping the benefits is a responsibility that can never be taken lightly.  We would suggest that one of the most important considerations is the method used to ensure that all harvested crops are ensiled correctly, go through a controlled fermentation, and are subsequently available as a good source of nutrition for your dairy herd.  The following would all be functional characteristics of “normal feed”:

  • Preserved nutrients, with little-to-no spoilage
  • Available to feed shortly after ensiling
  • Aerobically-stable, immediately prior to and during feeding
  • Uniform throughout the pile, pit, or silo
  • “Clean”, with little-to-no performance-limiting contaminants
  • Good-looking, good-smelling, and desirable to the animals

The likelihood of producing normal feed is absolutely dependent upon the choices made when harvesting and ensiling. To increase the likelihood of success, crops should be harvested at the ideal maturity and moisture, should be treated with an effective inoculant to drive a properly-controlled fermentation, and should be packed in a manner that minimizes exposure to oxygen.  What would feel better than seeing a cold, stable, and visibly beautiful drive-over pile of corn silage at five days after harvest?  If producing normal feed is an attractive outcome, then choosing the right inoculant is essential.

There is a large and continuously growing body of evidence that effective probiotics support all of the normal functions of the gastrointestinal tract, including, digestive, absorptive, barrier, and immune functions. All humans, from premature infants in neonatal intensive care units through the elderly would benefit from the daily ingestion of effective probiotics.  All production animals, from birth to departure, would benefit from the daily ingestion of effective probiotics.  Effective probiotics increase the likelihood of us and the animals in our care being normal.   Turning again to dairy cows, as an example, the following would be the functional characteristics of “normal”:

  • Cows that eat, drink, and produce expected amounts of milk
  • Cows that conceive, calve, and recover in a timely manner
  • Cows with a well-functioning, stable rumen
  • Cows with a well-functioning, stable post-rumen GI tract
  • Cows that get what they need from their feed
  • Cows that produce unremarkable manure



As a dairy farmer, what would feel better than an entire herd of normal cows?  Having a high percentage of normal cows is certainly dependent on many factors, including the availability of normal feed and good management systems and practices that limit stressors in the environment.   The value of using an effective probiotic is to increase the likelihood of individual animals getting what they need from their feed.  This gives them the greatest chance of allocating those resources for immune-mediated defense, maintenance of energy balance, putting milk in their udders, or growing a calf in their bellies; that is to say, behaving like normal cows.  Effective probiotic products contain a combination of strains of microorganisms that function across a wide range of modes of action within the ingested feed and throughout the rumen and post-rumen intestinal tract. As stated above, these modes of action support all normal GI functions: digestion, absorption, protection, and immune.

We contend that having normal feed available for your animals and a high percentage of normal animals in your herd would positively impact your peace-of-mind and significantly reduce perceived and real stress. While we can always provide myriad return-on-investment calculations based on the commonly-measured variables of our industry, we’re at a loss for what value we should assign to a good night’s sleep or the time spent at the ballgame with the family!  Perhaps a normal life is simply invaluable.

Contact your Chr. Hansen representative ( to learn how our products and services support normal: normal feed, normal animals, and normal life.

Editor’s note: The author is Vice President of North America Sales and Marketing for the Animal Health and Nutrition division of Chr. Hansen. In this role, Steve and his team are responsible for bringing Chr. Hansen’s science-based, research-proven products to the North American animal health and production markets, including beef cattle feedlots, commercial dairies and calf ranches, and poultry and egg production facilities.

Lerner has a Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology from West Virginia University and a post-doctoral Fellowship in Molecular Genetics from the University of Southern California. He holds an M.S. in Biology/Embryology from West Virginia University and a B.S. in Zoology from University of Maryland. Prior to joining Chr. Hansen, Steve worked at Nutrition Physiology Company as Vice President of Product Development and Commercialization. Steve is also an invited lecturer on Customer Lifetime Value Modeling at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bentley University, and the University of Rhode Island.


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