The Art of Nature, Built on Science- Calf Distinction

The Art of Nature, Built on Science- Calf Distinction

Calf Distinction is a brand that creates innovative and science-backed products designed to promote the health and growth of young calves. Our products are a combination of the art of nature and the latest scientific advancements in the field of animal health and nutrition. This unique combination sets us apart from our competitors and makes us the go-to brand for producers who want the best for their animals.


Early Life Development

At Calf Distinction, we understand that a calf’s early life is critical in determining its future productivity and overall health. Therefore, we have developed a range of products specifically tailored to meet the unique nutritional needs of calves during their early growth stages. These products are formulated using natural ingredients and are scientifically proven to promote growth, enhance immune function, and optimize calf health.


Calf Products

Surveillance Calf is our flagship product. Surveillance Calf brings every element of nature’s extraordinary DNA together in perfect, seamless balance. Superior performance, scientific design, and masterful technology combine to create a calf product that is giving the customer the option to not have to use antibiotics at all. This product binds and removes pathogens rather than relying on an antibiotic to kill them off.  In addition to pathogen removal, Surveillance Calf provides the animal with the nutrients it needs to initiate the proper immune response, and to rebuild and repair damaged cells post infection. On top of that Surveillance Calf delivers a huge dose of Bacillus probiotics to maintain pathogen control, strengthen the gut lining, and improve digestion.

Sync Paste and Powder provide optimal ingredient combinations and potency to support a calf’s developing gut and immune system. There are so many variables that affect the success of passive transfer immunity to the calf and Sync helps to bridge the gaps when colostrum quality, cleanliness, and timeliness may not be ideal.

TomaHawk iL and TomaHawk iL Zn combine scientific design and masterful technology to provide immune support and gut protection to the animal during times of high stress, such as weaning. Tomahawk iL and TomaHawk iL Zn provide the animal with the nutrients it needs for proper immune response, cell repair, and liver health. Similar to Surveillance, both products also deliver a huge dose of Bacillus probiotics for pathogen control, integrity of the gut lining, and improved digestion.


Scientifically Proven Natural Solutions

Calf Distinction products come to you with the finest natural solutions that nature has to offer. We are committed to identifying solutions from nature and providing the most advanced natural products on the market. It is quite simple, nature knows best. Our goal is to continuously improve the care of all calves.

We have a team of experienced Immunologists, microbiologists  and animal nutritionists who are constantly working to develop new and innovative products that are backed by scientific research. This ensures that our products are safe, effective, and built on science.


We are a brand that stands out in the crowded animal nutrition market. Our products are the art of nature built on science. This commitment to using natural ingredients, along with focus on science and research, has made us a trusted brand for producers and consumers. If you’re looking for products that will help promote the health and growth of your calves, then Calf Distinction is the brand for you.

Calf Distinction Timeline- The Path to Health

Calf Distinction Timeline- The Path to Health

The gut microbiome is the Inside story to long term health of the calf. It is home to trillions of microbes, both good and bad, that impact calf health. A balanced microbiome is highly populated and diverse, keeps pathogens in check, aids in breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. Neonatal calves are highly susceptible to enteric infections, one of the major causes of calf death. Recent research has discovered that microbiome engineering of the gut, the mucosal immune system, and early dietary interventions can effectively reduce the susceptibility of calves to enteric infections while promoting growth. The microbiome is linked to brain function, lung health, liver health, and overall health of the calf. Achieving a mature microbiome as quickly as possible is paramount.


Birth or Arrival

Similar to humans, when the calf is born large amounts of lactobacillus from the birth canal help to colonize the digestive tract of the newborn calf. At birth both the immune system and the digestive tract of the calf are naïve and immature. These beneficial bacteria help to prepare the gut and immune system for proper development and function.

Many factors in the first few days of life can compromise the colonization of these beneficial microbes. Difficult birth, C-section, dirty environment, shipping, poor colostrum, etc. With the knowledge gained from recent research we are learning that these stressful events can be overcome by supporting proper microbial colonization and providing the necessary fuel for healthy cells in the gut.

Giving a calf Sync at birth, or upon arrival at the calf ranch helps to prevent illness by supporting colonization of beneficial microbes and by fueling enteric cell growth. Pathogens are kept at bay, and the immune system is primed for proper working order.


Milk Phase

As of late, a lot of emphasis has been put upon the importance of high-quality colostrum and even transition milk for the health and gut development of the calf. Another point that we should not overlook is that milk replacer is not created equal to whole milk.

Researchers have just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the goodies found in colostrum and transition milk, and their role in the development of the immune system.  Although we know a lot about calf nutrition and the amounts of fat and protein needed to grow a healthy calf, there is still much that we do not know about milk components that may be affecting epigenetics and immune function.

What we do know is that bottle fed calves, even those fed whole or waste milk, often have more health problems than calves raised on the dam. There are various reasons why a calf may be raised on a bottle; to allow a nutritious food product to be produced for human consumption, loss of the dam, refusal of the dam to nurse the calf, etc.

It’s up to us as calf raisers to use the most current research to do our best job in raising these calves in a manner that will help them fulfill their greatest genetic potential. Even in the event of needing to feed milk replacer, or waste milk containing antibiotics, if we focus on cultivating a healthy gut microbiome in our calves during the milk phase, we can combat many health challenges.

Surveillance combines the most up-to-date technology to bind calfhood pathogens, promote a healthy microbiome, encourage feed intake, and facilitate proper immune function in the calf.


Grain Phase

It is truly fascinating to me that when introduced to grain early on, bottle fed calves can develop a healthy functioning rumen in a fraction of the time compared to calves raised on the dam and eating forage can.

One very important factor in early rumen development is encouraging grain intake. The more grain a calf eats, the more volatile fatty acids are produced that can be used as energy for growth of the animal and proliferation of cells in the digestive system. A balanced microbiome will help in the digestion and conversion of feedstuffs to nutrients the animal can utilize.

TomaHawk is designed to keep calves eating through stressful events such as weaning and to promote a healthy gut microbiome to prevent dysbiosis that may result in acidosis and even bloating. TomaHawk also provides many other components to support proper immune function, lung health, and liver health.

At Calf Distinction/MicroBasics we believe that the producer should have options that include effective natural alternatives to conventional ionophores and antibiotics. Our product ingredients are researched and set us apart from others on the market in effectiveness and return on investment. You can find them in the Calf Distinction Store.


*Please always consult with your Veterinarian. The statements and products described on this page have not been evaluated by the USDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Early Life Microbial Colonization and Effects on Immunity

Early Life Microbial Colonization and Effects on Immunity

In the calf world we talk a lot about average daily gain and the effects that better gains early on in life have on lifetime production. Although gains early on in life are important and do affect productivity, much of the growth and development affecting lifetime productivity may be taking place in utero, even before the calf is even born.


In Utero

Fetal growth and development are profoundly influenced by the in-utero environment. In humans approximately 20% of stunting has in-utero origins. Growth deficits in-utero are associated with maternal or placental inflammation and infection. This suggests that there may be a role that the microbiome plays in fetal growth and development. It is also very likely that these same mechanisms come into play when we talk about neonatal calf growth and development.

In the United States, and likely many other countries, poor intrauterine environments may occur due to: 1) malnutrition, 2) insufficient energy supply, 3) heat stress or other stressors, 4) overweight mother cows. Each of these stressors influences the nutritional status of the dam as well as her microbial population. In turn affecting the growth and development of the fetus.

A poor uterine environment during the first trimester can have significant impacts on the development of the mammary gland, ovaries, and development of homeostatic mechanisms in the liver and pancreas. Proper development of these organs is critical for future lifetime milk production, heart, lung, pancreatic, kidney, and placental health. Other performance outcomes influenced by intrauterine growth are the development of the small intestine and muscle, weaning weight, and reproductive performance.


Establishment of Gut Microbiota

Vaginal delivery plays a key role in colonizing the calf with beneficial microbiota at birth. Typically, vaginal microbiota is dominated by one of four Lactobacillus species. These bacteria are swallowed by calf and colonization of the digestive tract begins. Other bacteria are also ingested by the calf as it enters a new environment. These bacteria are not always helpful. It is important to provide the calf with a clean area to be born so that harmful bacteria do not outcompete the beneficial ones during colonization of the digestive tract.

Colostrum is important not just for passive transfer of IgG, but also for the colonization of the gut. Bacterial composition of colostrum can be highly important for microbial colonization as fresh colostrum contains Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Escherichia, Staphylococcus, Coliforms, and Streptococcus. Additionally, colostrum contains certain oligosaccharides that serve as substances for growth of the establishing bacterial community and for preventing pathogens from binding to the intestinal epithelial cells.

As the calf continues to grow and transition to dry feed the composition of gut microbiota continues to shift until the calf becomes a fully functioning ruminant.  Although the rumen provides a home for a diversity of bacteria, the lower digestive tract still proves to be a very important player in digestion and the immune system.



Early development of gut microbiota is thought to be very important for the proper development of the immune system. Dynamic interactions between gut microbes and the innate and adaptive immune systems of the calf play vital roles in promoting intestinal homeostasis and inhibiting inflammation.

Gut microbiotas metabolize proteins and complex carbohydrates, synthesize vitamins, and produce a large amount of metabolic products that mediate communication between the gut epithelial and immune cells. Gut dysbiosis can also dysregulate immune responses, cause inflammation, and oxidative stress.


Management Factors Influencing Gut Colonization

We have come to know so much about the effects that gut microbiota have on the immune system. There is still much to learn, but here are some key takeaways that you can easily apply on your farm today.

1. Manage stress and inflammation in pregnant and transition cows. Provide proper nutrition and modulate the gut environment and the immune system with a direct fed microbial. (Achieve)

2. Not every calving is perfect. Calves experiencing a difficult birth, or that did not get adequate colostrum are good candidates to receive supplemented levels of lactobacillus. (Sync)

3. Every calf gets adequate amounts of high-quality colostrum and transition milk if possible.

4. Clean calving pen to prevent inoculation of harmful bacteria.

5. Avoid using oral antibiotics if possible. Turn to products that bind and remove pathogens instead. (Surveillance)

6. Provide the calf with appropriate starter feed and fresh water.



Hang BPT, Wredle E, Dicksved J. Analysis of the developing gut microbiota in young dairy calves-impact of colostrum microbiota and gut disturbances. Trop Anim Health Prod. 2020 Dec 28;53(1):50. doi: 10.1007/s11250-020-02535-9. PMID: 33369699; PMCID: PMC7769786.

Malmuthuge, N. Effect of Early-Life Microbial Interventions on Health and Immunity. Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, 2018.

Schoonmaker, J. Effect of Maternal Nutrition on Calf Health and Growth. Purdue University, 2013.

(PDF) Effect of maternal nutrition on calf health and growth (


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

TomaHawk iL Zn Trial- The Healthy and Natural Feeding of Cattle

TomaHawk iL Zn Trial- The Healthy and Natural Feeding of Cattle

The selection of natural feed additives for calves is growing. Traditionally, ionophores and medicated feed additives appealed to calf growers in an attempt to increase efficiency, growth, and to ward off disease. More recently, as we have learned more about the Gut MicroBiome and its impact on animal performance- prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics technologies are now being utilized.

Peer reviewed scientific literature suggests that the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System can be modulated by biologically active feed additives. The decision to use natural feed additives should be based on scientific research, product effectiveness and return on investment.


Tomahawk iL Zn

Tomahawk iL Zn is a natural feed additive for cattle that consists of yeast culture, yeast cell wall, yeast extracts, bacillus subtilis, yucca  and zinc methionine. This product was evaluated for effectiveness and economic return by a World Renowned Veterinary Group in the western United States.


Experimental Design

In a large-scale trial conducted on a commercial calf grower site, day-old dairy and dairy-crossbred steer and heifer calves at ultra-high risk (UHR) of developing BRD were randomly divided into 2 experimental groups. A total of 1,374 calves were included in the trial.

The Control Group received their normal milk and feed ration, with nothing additional added.

The second group, TomaHawk iL Zn, received the same rations and in addition received 20ml of Tomahawk upon arrival at the calf ranch. Calves were fed 3ml/feeding (total of 6ml/day) during small hutch phase (average of 32 days) and 6ml/head/day of Tomahawk iL Zn in their grain during the large hutch phase (average of 54 days).

Outcome variables were measured from arrival to exit at 240 days (shipping as a feeder, culling, or death) to evaluate the effects of each feeding program on animal health and performance. Statistical analysis was used to determine the probability of whether differences in outcome were due to differences in the feeding programs or by random chance.


Economic Value of Feeding TomaHawk iL Zn


TomaHawk iL Zn vs Control

Overall Mortality


Program Cost


Interest Cost


Net Economic Advantage


From arrival to shipment, there was an economic advantage of $5.34/animal in the TomaHawk iL Zn group compared to the Control group.



Outcomes shown in the chart below are a comparison of the TomaHawk iL Zn treatment group compared to the Control group.




Initial UF (BRD) Treatment



1st UF Treatment Relapse



Initial Gastrointestinal Disease



Overall Mortality

3.56 %


Total Outs (Mortality + Culls)



TP <5.60 g/dl: Total Outs






Feed intake




Initial UF (BRD) Treatment– first treatment given for a fever, most likely to an animal with BRD. A reduction in this number is significant as it indicates that less animals are getting sick.

1st UF Treatment Relapse– sick calves that need a second round of treatments. A reduction in this number indicates that the first treatment is more effective.

Initial Gastrointestinal Disease- calves treated for Gastrointestinal Disease. A reduction in this number would mean less animals are getting sick and having issues in their gut.

Overall Mortality– calves that die and are removed from the trial. A reduction in this number means that less animals are getting sick, and more animals that do receive treatment actually recover.

Total Outs (Mortality + Culls)- sum of deads and culls. A reduction in this number means that less animals die, and less are deemed unfit and culled.

TP <5.60 g/dl: Total Outs– total serum protein under 5.6 g/dl is failure of passive transfer, many of these animals do not make it long term and die or are culled. A reduction in total outs in the group of animals with failure of passive transfer means a larger percentage of them thrive, live a productive life, and do not die or perform poorly enough to be culled.

Feed intake– amount of feed eaten. An increase in this number indicates that the calves are eating better.


“A picture is worth a thousand words”



Calf Distinction/MicroBasics

Each calf rearing system is faced with different challenges. Visit with your veterinarian and nutritionist about the benefits of a natural feed additive.

At Calf Distinction/MicroBasics we believe that the producer should have options that include effective natural alternatives to conventional ionophores and antibiotics. Our product ingredients are researched and set us apart from others on the market in effectiveness and return on investment. You can find them in the Calf Distinction Store.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Yeast and Yeast Derivatives – What’s the difference?

Yeast and Yeast Derivatives – What’s the difference?

Yeast and yeast derivatives have been demonstrated to have a wide range of immune enhancing benefits. It can be confusing trying to differentiate what kind of yeast is included in a feed product and understanding what it does. Let’s discuss this a little further in depth!

Whole-Live Yeast: 
single celled fungi.

Improved oxygen utilization in the rumen: live yeast use up the oxygen in the rumen and promote the growth of very important anaerobic bacteria and ciliate protozoa.

Improved fiber digestion: the yeast activates helpful bacteria that digest hemicellulose and cellulose.

Stabilized rumen pH: yeast stimulate the growth of lactate consuming bacteria. These bacteria use up the lactic acid in the rumen which helps to stabilize the pH at 6.2 or higher.

Improved gains and feed conversion efficiency: result of improved rumen environment, nutrient availability, and improved digestion.


Mannan Oligosaccharide (MOS): glucomannan protein complex on the outermost part of the cell wall.

Binds pathogens: mannose molecules act as binding site for pathogens.


Yeast Cell Wall: gives the yeast cell shape, composed of beta-glucan, mannoprotein, and chitin.

Binding pathogens: MOS portion of the cell wall works by binding pathogens on mannose molecules.

Activation of white blood cells: provides nutrients to increase efficiency of white blood cells.

Mitigation of negative effects of stress: pathogen binding and improved gut environment make the animal less likely to be negatively affected by stress.

Improved feed intake: result of improved gut environment and mitigated stress responses.


Yeast Extract: soluble portion of yeast cell, that provides additional nutrients to the animal.

Improved nervous system function

Improved metabolism

Production of red blood cells


Each yeast component contributes to cattle health and performance in different ways. Benefits can be claimed by feeding any one component separately or in combination with each other. Be sure to read feed labels when comparing products, and consult with your nutritionist to determine which components will have the most benefit in your feeding program!

Here at MicroBasics we utilize yeast and yeast components in our products!


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Farm to Table- Ray Robinson (High Desert Milk)

Farm to Table- Ray Robinson (High Desert Milk)

Recently, as input costs have skyrocketed, more and more producers are turning to marketing their own product to consumers. While marketing a consumable product is not feasible for everyone, it can be an opportunity for some.

This week we will get to hear a few words of wisdom from Ray Robinson, as he shares some of his experiences of maximizing opportunities for growth as they come, and how he and some of his neighbors came to found High Desert Milk.



I built my first dairy myself and milked about 250 cows. I had one hired milker, and I fed and did all the other work.

In 1998 we started Moo Mountain Milk and built the first barn there.  A couple years later we built a second barn and purchased the Butte Feedlot. Then a year or 2 later we bought East Ridge over towards Jackson. And then a couple years later we bought South Ridge over towards Golden Valley.  About that time, we also took over the heifer yard over near East Ridge.

Presently, we have crossbred calves in the Harris Fed Yard, dairy heifers in the Simplot Feed Yard out to Malta and we also run an Organic Dairy (Nature Ridge) out in Raft River. All together totaling about 23,000 milking cows.

Some of our cattle are milked twice a day and some of them three times a day.  We also farm a good amount of land. I oversee 10,000 acres of farm ground, and we farm considerably more. I never ever thought we would get this big.

In 2008 we started building High Desert Milk and in 2009 we started running it.  As opportunities come, we just take them on keep moving forward.



We came up with the idea just through different conversations we had with each other about what opportunities we could see were out there. Originally, there was 10 of us that sat down at the table to hash it all out. We all knew one another, but only 6 of us stayed to see it through, the other 4 got up and left that first meeting.



Getting everyone on the board to agree with how to do it and what to do, was the hardest. At first, we would meet every week, now we meet about once per month, unless there is a pressing need.

Three different individuals owned the property that High Desert Milk sits on, we bought it, and construction began.

We started out making just a non-fat 34 powder. Today we also produce butter and MPC 70. We are looking at adding on again to do some other products that would fall in the class 4 market.



It is an advantage, but also a disadvantage. We all bought quota in the plant, so we must stay within 10% of our quota, but it is nice to always have a home for our milk.

In the beginning our goal was to achieve an income equal to Class III. Sometimes we make a little extra money and sometimes we lose a little, but over the years I feel like we have averaged about that Class III price.

One thing that is nice when you are tied to a plant is that the people at the plant help you to know a little more of what the current market is doing.



Our product is marketed all around the world. To date, we have sold product in 49 different countries. Some is sold in the U.S.A., but the majority is export.

Originally, we started out just making one-pound cubes of butter, but as time went on, we started packaging our own quarter pound bars as well as picking up some contracts to manufacture for a few other brands. High Desert Milk Butter is sold locally in Ridley’s, Stoke’s, and WalMart stores in the “Idaho Products Section”

Recently our non-fat and buttermilk powder has become available on Amazon in 1-pound pouches.



When you first start, nothing will go like you think it will. It will all go backwards, but you have to prove to the public that you can make a quality product and do the things you say you will do. If you are going to do it as a group, make sure that you can all get along together.


Thank you, Ray, for sharing some of your insights regarding growth and milk marketing with us! We appreciate your knowledge and your commitment to provide quality milk products to the public.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Setting Calves and Employees up for Success – Thoughts from Brooke Vanderloop, AVA Group Inc.

Setting Calves and Employees up for Success – Thoughts from Brooke Vanderloop, AVA Group Inc.

Preventing Illness

To prevent illness in the calves the maternity pen is the end all be all and is especially when group housing calves. Also, good ventilation, and supporting gut health to prevent things like scours and secondary infections and respiratory disease.

I feel like, especially in a calf barn situation, you need to have your calf program set up to be successful to prevent you employees from burning out and getting compassion fatigue. I feel like that can be a huge problem with calf people.  Most employees won’t stick around if there are a lot of sick calves and dying calves. The employees care about the calves. If they can’t feel successful in raising them, they won’t be happy in their work. If you want good help, you need to have a good calf program, they both go together.


Treating Sick Calves

I do most all the treating. One thing I want to work on this year is to get a protocol zeroed in, so that if per se I want to teach someone to treat calves they could do it how I would do it. I am familiar with my animals and their environment so I can usually tell by looking at a calf if it will be best to treat it with a natural product or if it needs antibiotics. I want to document my reasoning so if needed, someone else could treat the calves just as effectively.

I use Sync powder as a scours treatment. Logistically it was a little difficult for us to use in our group housing program, so Mom had the idea to put the powder into self-fill gelatin boluses, which makes it easy to give it to the calf with a pill popper. I also want to go back to giving Sync on arrival like we have done in the past. It was a great boost to the calf, and it directly impacted average daily gain.

We use Surveillance daily in our milk to prevent illness. I also have been using it more and more as a treatment. It’s very effective on the front end of scours.

The other day I got a preemie calf, I thought she was going to die. She was flat out scouring straight water. I didn’t feed her milk or anything, she couldn’t stand.  I gave her 30 ml of Surveillance and the next morning she looked like a spring chicken. I think I am going to utilize that treatment more.


Successful Employees

This year I have been working on communicating better and faster with my employees. I also have a goal to be more deliberate with my team meetings. Number one, so I can tell them how well the calves are doing, and number two, so we can determine areas of improvement. I know a lot of my employees feel appreciated when I show value in their opinions.

Positive feedback is important to everyone, but I feel like it is above average important to me. I know I need positive feedback, and I need to make sure that I also give that to my crew. One way I show appreciation to my employees I always like to have candy and treats available. One of my guys really loves coffee so I make sure there is coffee available every day.

I was reading an article the other day and it said that 27% of dairy farm employees, haven’t gotten positive feedback from an employer for 15 years.  That’s depressing! I would cry!  As employers we need to really focus on the positives for our employees. I am going to be more intentional with positive feedback. When a vendor comes and tells us the barn looks nice, I need to pass that on to my employees and let them know how good of a job they are doing.


Thank you, Brooke, for the great thoughts on setting up calves and employees for success! If you would like to hear more from Brooke’s perspective on calf raising you can visit her Smart Calf blog!


Surveillance and Sync can be purchased in the Calf Distinction Store.



Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Fresh Cow Health

Fresh Cow Health

Calving is a stressful event for both the cow and the calf. Management practices that minimize stress and support immune function are crucial during this event. The first few days postpartum are the most critical days in the life of a dairy cow. Proper nutrition and management during this time is important to maintain immunity, prevent metabolic disorders, and achieve high milk production throughout lactation.


Metabolic Disorders

A metabolic disorder is a result of a disruption in the cow’s internal biochemical processes. These disorders are often caused by an imbalance of minerals in the blood or improper rumen pH. Cows that experience a metabolic disorder are less productive and more likely to encounter a secondary disorder such as; ketosis, mastitis, retained placenta and uterine prolapse.


Rumen Acidosis

Cause: Acidosis is caused by a drop of pH in the rumen. Signs of rumen acidosis include; going off feed, slug feeding, depressed milk fat, diarrhea, laminitis, and a high incidence of displaced abomasum. Acidosis is often caused by poor bunk management or low-quality ration forage.

Low rumen pH is often common in fresh cows as their intakes increase or decrease dramatically, or as they change to a new ration higher in fermentable carbohydrate. This low rumen pH makes the fresh cow more likely to experience acidosis than cows later in lactation.

Prevention: Properly balance diets for energy, and provide smooth transitions from the close-up ration, to the fresh cow ration, and on to the high cow ration. It is also a good idea to offer rumen buffers free choice and/or in the ration.


Milk Fever

Cause: Milk Fever is a result of hypocalcemia (low blood calcium). Typically, cows will experience hypocalcemia post calving because of increased demand for calcium as the cow produces more milk. In some cases, the change is more drastic and hypocalcemia is severe enough to lead to clinical milk fever.

This sudden demand for calcium must be accommodated by absorption from the gut or resorption (mobilization) from bone. When calcium supplied from both gut absorption and bone mobilization is not adequate, then milk fever is the result.

Prevention: Consider feeding a negative DCAD diet in the close-up period, and ensure the fresh cow diet is properly balanced. It is also common to supply the cow with an oral calcium supplement at calving as a preventative measure.


Displaced Abomasum

Cause: A displaced abomasum (DA) usually occurs within the first month after calving,

and may be a primary or secondary condition. The abomasum migrates to the left or right side, and the gut may become twisted and create a partial blockage of the digestive tract. Fresh cows with low dry matter intake, or those whose ration is changed abruptly are more at risk of a DA.

Prevention: Maintain adequate daily dry matter intake, and blood acid-base balance. Watch for any symptoms of milk fever and promptly treat with intravenous calcium if needed.



Cause: Ketosis occurs when the cow experiences a negative energy balance and the body mobilizes large amounts of adipose (fat) tissue. Fat mobilization is accompanied by high blood serum concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), a large portion of which are directed to ketone synthesis in the liver. Resulting in high concentrations of NEFAs and ketones, and low concentrations of glucose in the cow.

Prevention: Manage body condition in late lactation, heavy cows are more likely to experience ketosis at freshening. Encourage DMI during the close-up and fresh cow periods, and balance rations for both adequate energy and fiber to promote rumen health. Consider including supplements such as; niacin, calcium propionate, sodium propionate, propylene glycol, and rumen-protected choline, during the close-up period as they may help prevent and manage ketosis.


There are many different metabolic diseases that fresh cows are at risk for. One thing that they all have in common is that to prevent them from occurring cows need properly balanced rations and we have to keep the cow eating! If the close-up ration is adequately balanced and the fresh cow ration mirrors the high cow ration, fresh cows should experience a relatively smooth transition.

However, there are additional supplements to consider when promoting gut health to keep cows eating and also to support to the immune system through transition. Yeast, probiotics, and chelated minerals have all been shown to promote optimum rumen function and improve overall cow health. One supplement that has all the bases covered is Achieve.

Achieve contains:

  • Multiple strains of live yeast that provide a rich nutrient source for rumen microbes.
  • Viable lactobacillus probiotics aid in stabilizing rumen pH and helping to prevent acidosis.
  • Bacillus subtilis to produce large quantities of digestive enzymes and compete with pathogenic bacteria.
  • Digestive enzymes that stimulate fiber-digestion, stabilize rumen pH, and reduce heat stress.
  • Mannan-oligosaccharide prevents pathogenic colonization in the GI tract.
  • Yucca schidigera modifies ruminal fermentation by altering select microorganism ratios. Resulting in reduction of rumen ammonia and high blood urea levels. Which in turn has been show to improve milk production and conception rates in dairy cattle.
  • Immune Positioning System (IPS) a blend of biologically active polysaccharides and polypeptides. IPS nutritionally assists cows in balancing cellular function, reducing gut inflammation, and supporting the immune system.

Visit with your veterinarian and nutritionist about any management improvements, or ration adjusts that may aid in reducing metabolic disease in your transition cows.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.