Diarrhea is a major cause of death in calves and this is linked directly to economic loss in the cattle industry. Fermented milk replacer (FMR) has been used widely in clinical settings for calf feeding to improve its health and growth. However, the protective efficacy of FMR on calf diarrhea remains unclear. In this study, we verified the preventive effects of FMR feeding on calf diarrhea using an experimental infection model of bovine rotavirus (BRV) in newborn calves and a field study in dairy farms with calf diarrhea. In addition, we evaluated the protective efficacy of lactic acid bacteria-supplemented milk replacer (LAB-MR) in an experimental infection model. In the experimental infection, calves fed FMR or high-concentrated LAB-MR had diarrhea, but the water content of feces was lower and more stable than that of calves fed normal milk replacer. The amount of milk intake also decreased temporarily, but recovered immediately in the FMR- and LAB-MR-fed calves. As compared with the control calves, FMR- or LAB-MR-fed calves showed less severe or reduced histopathological lesions of enteritis in the intestinal mucosa. In a field study using dairy calves, FMR feeding significantly reduced the incidence of enteritis, mortality from enteritis, duration of a series of treatment for enteritis, number of consultations, and cost of medical care for the disease. These results suggest that feeding milk replacer-based probiotics to calves reduces the severity of diarrhea and tissue damage to the intestinal tract caused by BRV infection and provides significant clinical benefits to the prevention and treatment of calf diarrhea.
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