Can We Accelerate Recovery From Bovine Respiratory Disease by Considering Gut Health?

Project Title

Re-considering Treatment Strategies: Can We Accelerate Recovery from Disease by Considering Gut Health?


Greg Penner (University of Saskatchewan)

Jose Perez-Casal (VIDO), Gabriel Ribeiro (University of Saskatchewan), John Campbell (Western College of Veterinary Medicine), Brian Warr (Veterinary Agri-Health Services), and Stuart Thiessen (Namaka Farms Ltd.)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 ANH.15.21C


Sick cattle often consume less feed or eat less frequently. Irregular feed intake significantly increases the risk of acidosis, and severe acidosis increases the risk that gut bacteria will pass from the rumen or intestine into the bloodstream, cause inflammation throughout the body and make the animal even sicker. These researchers want to see whether providing a prebiotic and/or a probiotic to cattle sick with BRD can help the gut recover faster, and help the animal recover from BRD faster.


  • Conduct a metabolic trial to compare physiological responses and gut permeability of cattle that are challenged with (a) BRD (b) systemic inflammation induced using a lipopolysaccharide or (c) feed intake restriction alone
  • Conduct a metabolic trial to determine whether single or repeated (2 or 3) doses of both M. elsdenii and betaine stabilize gut barrier function, ruminal fermentation, and dampens inflammation in cattle challenged with BRD (compared to unchallenged controls)
  • Conduct a metabolic trial to determine whether providing both M. elsdenii and betaine provide more gut barrier function, ruminal fermentation and inflammation benefits to BRD-challenged cattle than either additive alone (or no additive).
  • Conduct a commercial feedlot trial to determine whether including the most promising pre/probiotic treatment as part of the routine treatment protocol for sick cattle cost-effectively improves re-treatment rates, growth performance, carcass weight, yield and quality grade, and liver abscess scores.

What They Will Do

These researchers will do three metabolic trials in which they will induce BRD in feeder cattle using intranasal BHV-1 (which causes IBR or red nose). Cattle will then be supplemented with betaine (a prebiotic that may help stabilize rumen proteins, enzymes and bacteria under adverse conditions) and/or a probiotic (M. elsdenii; a bacterium that produces the butyrate molecule that plays a role in rumen development) to see if they improve feed intake, rumen function, barrier function (rumen and gut) and dampen inflammation. The most promising treatment strategy will be tested in a commercial feedlot trial using high risk cattle to see whether adding a pre/probiotic treatment improves health, performance and carcass outcomes compared to standard health protocols.


Cost-effective strategies that help the whole animal recover from health challenges faster will benefit both animal welfare and antimicrobial stewardship in the feedlot sector.