Probiotic data collection project 2016-17

Milestone Two and therefore this project has been completed in May 2017. We have revisited the data from the AgBoard’s 2012 probiotic calf trial project (SFF L12-083 - “The effects of a probiotic supplement on growth, feed conversion and general health of dairy calves.” 2012 Report at

We were able to collect and analyse data from almost all of the original 307 trial calves (283 heifers). 174 (62%) of these heifers were production cows in the herds of the three Otago farms from the trial.

The data included live weights, milk yield, mortality and culls, days in milk and milk efficiency.  The farmers concerned have been great with their support for the time-consuming data collection.

Rather than find a clear overall answer to the topic question around “long-term advantages” the project has been able to make observations and indicate trends that should be of interest to the industry. These observations include:

  • There is a possible trend of slightly higher production seen in the MS kgs figures for the 2015-16 season across the three farms, but analysis of these production figures show no statistically significant difference.
  • Data collected from two farms appears to show the neo-natal probiotic treated cows being retained in their herds in greater numbers. For 6 of the 7 paired groups of calves a higher % of the control groups were culled, sold or had died. This was not the case for Farm 1.
  • 38% more control group cows died or were culled (taking out sales) over all three farms than those from the probiotic groups – 42 v 29 animals.
  • The probiotic supplement had little or no effect on animal live weights (beyond the initial 2012 trial period) or on days in milk. 
  • Milk Efficiency data was available from one farm and showed a 10.2% increase in milk efficiency by the probiotic cows over the control group that was statistically close to the 95% probability threshold (p<0.058).

Neo-natal probiotic supplement treatment may have beneficial long-term effects but our study may have been insufficiently sensitive to determine this, given the environmental and management differences amongst the farms. 

The Final Project report can be seen here.

The Raw Data collected for this project is available here.

The previous Milestone One report is here.