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Probiotics in Lambs Can Increase Immunity and Reduce Watery Mouth

Written Dr TB Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

Mortality in Young Lambs

Almost 50% of total lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours of life, with a further 11% coming to an early demise 2-14 days post-lambing.  Reports show that estimates of pre-weaning mortality range from 10-28 % and that most of the mortality is in the first 3 days of life across all breeds and production systems.  Deaths at or around birth can lead to the loss of up to 15% of lambs born in lowland flocks and up to 25% of lambs born in hill flocks.  Newborn lambs require 10% of their body weight in colostrum within the first 24 hours of life, after which the gut is no longer able to absorb the antibodies that help prevent disease.  45% of early lamb mortality is caused by E. coli scours (Diarrhoea/Watery Mouth ), 20% by starvation/hypothermia and 8% by pneumonia.  Several sources of UK lamb mortality data over the past 30 years find average mortality rates of 12-23%. There is significant variation in levels of losses between farms, for instance 15% lamb mortality has been reported in Welsh flocks and a UK wide study found a range of 4-21% in lowland flocks.

As mentioned previously, almost half of this mortality is caused by E. coli (Watery Mouth).  Hence an effective new approach to promote newborn gut health, better immunity, and prevention of E. coli infection in lambs might significantly reduce these high mortality figures.  One such scientific evidenced based approach is to use proven probiotics in newborn lambs to protect the gut against E. coli to boost immunity until weaning, and to generate better growth rates.

The Gut Microbiome of the Lamb Governs Health & Immunity

The optimised gut microbiome is now known to be the director, not only of gut health and protection against E. coli infection, but also of general immunity in the body.  Medical research shows the beneficial effects of quality probiotics on good bacteria (commensals) of the gut and an additive signalling effect from the gut commensals to the immune system via short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and other signalling molecules.  In essence there is a healthy “cross talk” existing between the gut and other parts of the body because of an optimised gut microbiome facilitating local immunity in the gut by counteracting E. coli, but also protecting the respiratory system, the brain and other body compartments.  Eubiosis in the gut (i.e. healthy gut flora) is associated with high levels of good bacteria and SCFA, whereas dysbiosis in the gut (pathogenic organisms) is associated with a decrease in SCFA.  This recent scientific evidence clearly underpins why in the Provita Protect field trials, the treated animals displayed not only a significantly lower incidence of E. coli scour but also a lower incidence of respiratory disease.

Interestingly, there are more cells in the body’s microbiome than there are animal cells in the body. Plus there is more DNA within cells of the gut microbiome directing immunity than there is in the entire animal cell count of the body.  An optimised gut microbiome in lambs will have a higher portion of commensal organisms if acted upon directly by a proven and quality probiotic.  This probiotic-enhanced gut microbiome, as discussed, is proven to boost overall health of newborns.  This new concept explains not only the healthier gut and lower incidence of scours seen with a licensed probiotic such as Provita Protect, but also explains the significantly better growth rates seen as a bonus when calves receive Provita Protect.  Similar growth rate improvements have been reported with probiotics in lambs, together with a reduction of E. coli scour and better immunity.  The gut of the foetal lamb is sterile in the womb and is only very slowly colonised after birth.  Thus, the newborn lamb has little or no gut based immunity and is highly susceptible to E. coli infection (Watery Mouth). 

A severe challenge by environmental pathogens such as E. coli can easily override this weak and minimal indigenous commensal population in the newborn lamb.  A number of Provita newborn products contain high numbers of beneficial bacteria which help to seed, augment, and consolidate this indigenous commensal population, thereby counteracting pathogenic infection, while at the same time boosting overall health.  Specifically, these beneficial bacteria added to the gut counteract and “overcrowd” unwanted bacteria, plus also enhance early gut development to boost early gains.

Why the Lamb Benefits from Lamb Response

Lambs rely on maternal colostrum for passive immune protection because they are born immunodeficient.  Furthermore, the role between commensal microorganisms and host interaction supports the hypothesis that gut commensals play a key role in immune training.  Even with support from maternal immunoglobulins, lambs still exhibit high mortality rates, and hence implementing early and effective supplementation of the gut commensal population with Lamb Response is of critical importance.  An enhanced commensal gut microbiome will boost lamb survival and reduce digestive disturbances in the gut, thereby reducing diarrhoea incidence by virtue of the anti-pathogenic, gut based action of probiotics.  See figure 1:

Provita products are designed to supply approved additives in optimum levels and in the correct ratio, to help ensure maximum productivity from livestock. 

Provita Lamb Response is a beneficial bacteria based oral supplement which acts preventatively to augment the gut commensal population of the newborn lamb with protective bacteria, thereby generating gut health, and preventing establishment of E. coli by boosting immunity.  This product also supplies protective egg proteins and B vitamins to further enhance the gut, and to stimulate metabolism and growth.  Young lambs can also be very susceptible to hypothermia, loss of energy, and deficiency of vitamin E and selenium. Supplying egg proteins, energy (glucose) and trace elements such as vitamin E & selenium immediately after birth will not only kick start the metabolism of the newborn lamb but will also aid its survivability.  For example by using a complementary product such as Provita Jump Start.  This will act in synergy with the beneficial bacteria in Lamb Response.  Provita Jump Start is high in energy, minerals, and vitamins to provide instant and slow release and to counteract common deficiencies.  Jump Start is a nutritional supplement, specifically developed to provide newborn lambs with beneficial sources of immediately available and slow release energy containing 14 different types of minerals and vitamins. 

Written Dr TB Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

(Dr T. Barragry acts as consultant to Provita Animal Health Ltd )


75% of foetal growth occurs in the final 6-7 weeks before lambing. The rapid growth of the foetus increases the ewe’s need for nutrients, and hence daily requirements can no longer be met by a forage based diet alone.  Ewes must be correctly fed in late pregnancy in order to provide for the growing foetus and to ensure the ewe herself is prepared for the lactation period.  Supplementation will frequently be needed.  In late pregnancy, nutrients are required for the growing foetus (or foetuses), ewe maintenance, udder development and the build-up of colostrum.  Underfeeding can lead to significant problems such as light or weak lambs at birth, higher ewe and lamb mortality, thin ewes, metabolic diseases, and lack of colostrum.  Twin Lamb Disease, hypocalcaemia and uterine prolapse could also become an issue of underfeeding.  Although energy is the first limiting factor in the late pregnancy diet of a ewe, the protein, mineral and vitamin intake also have important roles to play.

Hypocalcaemia (Parturient Paresis)

This refers to a sudden drop in the levels of blood calcium in the ewe.  Milk fever is caused by a calcium deficiency in the bloodstream, usually occurring in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and the first 3 months of lactation when calcium needs are the highest.  Ewes could already be prone to a calcium deficiency due to a lack of calcium in the diet.  For example, ewes feeding on poor quality pastures or grain diets without added calcium, or grazing oxalate-containing plants (e.g. beet or kales) that bind calcium in the intestines, preventing absorption are susceptible.  Older ewes are more susceptible to milk fever.  If recognised early, a simple treatment with a calcium borogluconate solution injection or oral supplements of organic calcium will effect a recovery in most ewes.  For example, Provita BoviCal drench contains organic calcium and also propionate as an immediate source of extra energy to kick start the metabolism for a hypercalcaemic ewe.

Pregnancy Toxaemia (Twin Lamb Disease)

Twin Lamb Disease (TLD) is also called Pregnancy Toxaemia, most common in twin and triplet bearing ewes who have higher energy demands during the last month of gestation.  It occurs following a period of severe energy shortage, whether the result of poor roughage quality, inadequate concentrate allowance or high foetal demand, but clinical signs can be precipitated by sudden stressful events.

TLD is a metabolic disease that occurs when the ewe is no longer receiving enough nutrition and energy to provide for herself and also for her lambs in utero, and hence her blood glucose drops sharply.  The disease can occur in thin or over fat ewes and is triggered by a stressful event which results in a critical shortage of blood glucose causing a demand on the ewe to mobilise her backfat for energy.  This fat travels to the liver to be processed into energy but if excessive amounts are mobilised, the liver begins to metabolise this fat into ketone bodies and soon a toxic state ensues.  This is a state of ketosis which causes brain and kidney damage.  

TLD can be triggered by several factors aside from lack of food.  As aforementioned, thin and fat ewes are more likely to develop TLD.  Example of stressful events that could predispose ewes to TLD are:

  1. Bad weather – ewes unable to access feed.
  2. Lameness  – ewes unable to graze effectively or stand at feeders.
  3. Illness – again ewes unable to feed properly.
  4. Inadequate dry matter intake – reduced rumen fill from carrying multiples so energy density of diet needs to be higher

The early clinical signs of ovine pregnancy toxaemia include disorientation, leading to isolation from the remainder of the flock, then over the next 24-48 hours affected ewes become increasingly dull and depressed and are easily caught.  Ewes displaying early symptoms of TLD should be treated with a fast acting glucose energy drench ( e.g. propylene glycol) such as Provita Ewe Two to increase their blood glucose levels quickly; this can be repeated after 4 hours and again after 24 hours if required.  Propylene Glycol (PG) is a rapidly acting source of glucose which given orally increases insulin levels by 200–400% within 30 min after drenching indicating that PG is absorbed very quickly from the rumen.  Provita Ewe Two also contains highly beneficial minerals and vitamins – Selenium, Vit E ,Vit B 12,Cobalt ,Iodine ,Iron, B vitamins, zinc, manganese, and methionine for correction of common deficiencies associated with TLD due to poor feed intakes.

Selenium & Vitamin E

Selenium deficiency in sheep can be quite severe resulting in white muscle disease or sub clinical symptoms causing reduced productivity, low immunity, and low conception rates.  Selenium and vitamin E are therefore essential in sheep diets.  Selenium is a trace element which works with vitamin E to prevent and repair cell damage in the body.  Field experiments have shown that for ewes with 3 or more lambs, there was a significantly lower stillbirth rate for vitamin E supplemented ewes than for control ewes.  Deficiencies of either or both selenium and vitamin E can cause weaner ill thrift, reduced wool production, reduced ewe fertility, reduced immune response and white muscle disease.  Vitamin E and selenium administration to lambs can improve growth rates and prevent weaner ill thrift.  ProVitaMin Sheep drench contains high levels of Vitamin E and selenium and is beneficial mid-pregnancy and at least 6 weeks pre lambing.

Cobalt & Vitamin B12

Cobalt has an important biological role as a constituent of vitamin B12 which is manufactured by micro-organisms in the (rumen).  Cobalt deficiency (pine) occurs where there are low soil cobalt concentrations.  Vitamin B12 also acts as a co factor with folic acid in stimulating red blood cell production.  Cobalt-deficient sheep may fail to respond well to vaccinations and be more susceptible to clostridial diseases (for example pulpy kidney) and pasteurellosis (pneumonia).  Cobalt/B12 deficiency in pregnant ewes can result in  fewer lambs born, a higher incidence of stillbirths and more neonatal mortalities.  ProVitaMin Sheep drench contains high levels of Cobalt & Vitamin B12.

Written Dr TB Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

Evidence based probiotics, the gut microbiome and immunity- the scientific and holistic way forward

Evidence  based probiotics, the gut microbiome and immunity- the scientific and holistic way forward

Written by Dr Tom Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

In recent peer reviewed papers from the international biomedical research journals the gut microbiome is now seen clearly to be a major instigator of immune health, not only for the gut but also for  lung health (Ref 1,2).There are more cells in the body’s microbiome than there are somatic cells in the body. There is more DNA within cells of the gut microbiome directing immunity than there is in the entire somatic cell count of the body.  An optimised gut microbiome will have a higher preponderance of commensal organisms if acted upon directly  by a  proven and quality probiotic (e.g. Provita Protect – the only veterinary probiotic whose claims and proven efficacy have been accepted and authorised by the VMD). This probiotic-enhanced gut microbiome with its higher proportion of commensal organisms in turn will produce higher amounts of SCFA (short chain fatty acids)from the commensals which are now known to be the signalling mechanism from the gut to the body’s immune  systems and especially to the immune system of the lungs.  “Cross Talk” between the gut and the lungs is now a proven scientific concept and is the “buzz word” in modern immunology.  This new concept explains not only the healthier gut and lower incidence of scours seen with a licensed probiotic such as Provita Protect, but also explains the significantly lowered incidence of calf respiratory disease which is also seen as a bonus when calves receive Provita Protect as has been evidenced by farmers who keep repeatedly using the product for this dual effect.   See Table 1 below

Lower incidence of Scour & Pneumonia in Protect Treated Calves
Table 1.  Calf number and health status
Arrival Treatment Total Number of calves

“healthy throughout”


Calves treated for Scours & Pneumonia

Percentage calves treated
Control     40                   21                    19            49%
Provita Protect     55                   49                     6             11%
Provita Protect     54                   43                     11            20%
Total    149                  113                    36  


Table 1 from Provita Protect Drug Master File Submission for VMD Registration-Clinical Trials Section


When is a Probiotic not a Probiotic.?

The resurgence of interest by veterinary surgeons in proven and effective probiotics as alternatives to antibiotics, has been triggered by a number of recent issues:-

(1) The global increase in AMR in food animals and its likely transference to humans

(2) The worldwide push back on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry

(3) New EU regulations on prohibition of prophylactic and metaphylactic use of  antibiotics

(4) The realisation that prevention is better than cure and that avoidance of disease is better than treating it, both financially and on welfare grounds.

(5) The overwhelming recent scientific evidence on the importance of high immunity in contributing to a healthy animal and to the realisation of its genetic potential in growth and productivity

(6) The recent published evidence of the multiple and widespread immunological effects  conferred by  a healthy gut microbiome.

The term “Probiotic”

The term probiotic has confused people and a number of veterinarians still regard such substances with a degree of scepticism tending to underestimate the scientific potency of proven probiotic products.  Why is this? Well, the answer is relatively simple.

There have been very many unproven and substandard “probiotics” on the veterinary market for quite a number of years now. The confused situation has  arisen because in the early days, probiotics were defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts  could confer a health benefit on the host”. In other words, it was a ‘possible effect’ rather than a proven effect’.  Furthermore, quality control, characterisation of microorganism strains, shelf life of product , number of strains,   and regulatory approval of manufacturing premises were not required at that time.

Hence, unproven, unsubstantiated, and unreliable products remained as the majority of “probiotic ”products on the market and were  easily accessible  by farmers and vets. The lack of standardisation and the lack of proof of any kind of efficacy for the product made it extremely difficult for the veterinarian to distinguish between what was a scientifically evidence based effective compound and what was a totally useless product.

A number of companies do not identify the types and numbers of viable organisms in their products at the time of use, nor have they any clinical trials performed to validate and prove their product. This possibly leads people into thinking that their products have actually been clinically tested and proven to confer specific health benefits when, in fact , no such evidence exists. The end result is the lack of credibility for the field of probiotics as a whole and uncertainty as to which products may benefit animal patients.

The Current Recommendations

Recently groups of specialist  international  scientists in the microbiome and probiotic fields, mainly in the human sector, have been convening  to review  and discuss the above issues regarding the lack of international standardisation of the term ‘“probiotic”. They have identified the problems and they have set out new criteria in terms of quality controls ,proof of efficacy, and when  the term ‘probiotic product can be properly used .Their findings were recently published in Frontiers of Microbiology (July 2020) (ref 1).

Scientists have set out criteria that attempt to clarify an established industry definition of probiotics, as the team addresses the term’s misuse, which contributes to confusion about probiotic health benefits.

“The term ‘“probiotic ”poses a scientific problem,” says the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), one of the organisations to take part in the review.  “It does not distinguish between bacterial strains that have a possible health benefit and strains that have a demonstrated health benefit, as shown in studies.

The review also calls for probiotics to be supported by at least one clinical trial preferably followed by confirmatory trial(s).

To correctly use the term ‘“probiotic “to describe such strains, the review states that the organism must be identified at strain level and shown to express the relevant trait. Proper characterisation of the strains, shelf life ,viable organisms and count, and proof of efficacy of the actual product are necessary if the term probiotic is to be used.


Provita Protect – How is it Different?

Provita Protect is the only veterinary probiotic to be authorised and licensed by the VMD.  Copious clinical trial data, veterinary expert reports, and proof of efficacy were submitted in large Masterfile dossiers to the regulatory authorities, in order  to acquire this valued authorisation. In other words, Provita Protect ,uniquely, is a proven animal probiotic product, and is thus  clearly set apart from most other probiotics in the veterinary marketplace.

Amongst the key finding in the field trials with Provita Protect in young calves were the following:

  • Less incidence of scours in calves treated with Provita Protect (Fig 1 )
  • Less incidence of respiratory disease in calves treated with Provita Protect (Table 1)
  • Provita Protect was at least as effective as antibiotics in scouring calves (together with electrolytes)
  • Calves were heavier at weaning once they had received Provita Protect (Fig 2)
  • Over 400 calves were used in various field trials and the aggregate weights of Provita treated calves showed an almost 10% liveweight gain increase over untreated controls
  • Fed prophylactically from birth to young calves, scour incidence was less in the Provita Protect treated calves and this was statistically significant.
  • At 14 days post treatment in newborn calves, scour incidence was 3% in Provita treated calves and 12.5% in untreated control calves.
  • The trial showed that calves treated with Provita on arrival performed better and were healthier than control calves. Incidence of scour was significantly lower in treated calves at 14 days (P <0.05).A total of 149 calves were used in this trial.
  • 5% of control calves remained healthy throughout the trial compared with 89% of the Provita Protect treated calves
  • Control calves showed an average of 17.88 kg growth over the five week rearing period, whereas Provita treated calves gained 19.67kg and had less disease, incurring less cost on treatments and antibiotics.
  • Laboratory tests and analysis showed Provita Protect to retain adequate counts of live viable organisms for at least five months. If containers are sealed and kept at 2-8C, the shelf life has been shown to be 18 months.
  • A significant decrease in pneumonia was evidenced also in Provita treated calves.17% of control calves were treated for respiratory disease compared to 5% for the Provita treated calves.
  • Incidence of scour plus respiratory disease was 49% in control untreated  calves and 11-20% in Provita  Protect treated calves

Recent Research on Probiotics and the Gut Microbiome

The optimised gut microbiomes now known to be the director not only of gut health but also of general immunity in the body. Medical research shows the beneficial effects of quality probiotics on commensals of the gut and an augmentation of the signalling from the gut to the immune system via SCFA (short chain fatty acids) and other signalling inducers. “Cross talk” exists between the gut and the lung in terms of the optimised gut microbiome facilitating not just local immunity in the gut but also protection in the respiratory system the brain and other body compartments.  Eubiosis in the gut (i.e. healthy gut flora) is associated with high SCFA whereas dysbiosis in the gut(pathogenic organisms) is associated with a decrease in SCFA. This recent scientific evidence clearly underpins why in the Provita Protect field trials, the treated calves displayed not only a lower incidence of scour but also a lower incidence of respiratory disease. (Refs 2—6)  (Fig 3)

This dual effect has also been noted by customers in the field as shown previously in table 1.  The proven effectiveness of Provita Protect  in protecting  calves from scour and pneumonia, and the resultant heavier weight gains, and improved all-round health status of the treated calves were documented in the Provita Protect Clinical Expert Report ( Barragry 1997,  Ref  7).


Written by Dr Tom Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT.

For more information see or email George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,



  1. Binda S., et al., (2020) Criteria to Qualify Microorganisms as “Probiotic” in Foods and Dietary Supplements.  Microbiol.11:1662. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01662
  2. Marsland B., et al., (2018)The Gut-Lung Axis in Respiratory Disease. Scientific Reports. 8:13189
  3. Enaud R., et al. (2020) The Gut-Lung Axis in Health and Respiratory Disease: A Place for Inter Organ and Inter Kingdom Crosstalks. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 10:9
  4. Zhang D., et al., (2020) The Cross-Talk Between Gut Microbiota and Lungs in Common Lung Diseases. Frontiers in Microbiology. 11:301
  5. Correa-Oliveira R., et al., (2016) Regulation of Immune Cell Function by Short-Chain Fatty Acids., Clinical & Translational Immunology 5:4 e73
  6. Arpaia N., et al. (2013) Metabolites Produced by Commensal Bacteria promote peripheral regulatory T-cell generation. Nature. 504:451-5
  7. Provita Protect Clinical Expert Report Barragry TB.

How this farmer achieved a 12% increase in his flock’s scanning rate

Eoin Kelly farms a large-scale sheep and beef enterprise in Co. Derry.

Prior to this, he spent seven to eight years gaining invaluable experience working on and managing various sheep and beef farms across Great Britain before returning to the family farm, where he works in partnership with his father and twin brother, Jonathan as Crockataggart Farms.

Throughout August and September, he will be selling gimmers through local marts, getting 2020-born lambs finished and making plans to get next year’s breeding ewes ready for tupping.

With over 750 breeding ewes and 600 gimmers grazing predominantly hill and mountain ground at the minute, Eoin wants to maximise the returns from this large flock, so a big focus is placed on animal health so each sheep has the best chance of hitting its potential.

Two key areas at this time of year are reducing flock lameness and boosting their vitamin and mineral status.

Lameness prevention

All sheep groups are regularly footbathed; at least every fortnight and every time, a mob is gathered for dosing, vaccinating, or moving.

Provita Hoofsure Endurance is their footbath solution of choice as it is easily mixed, sheep can be simply walked through it and it is proven to be very effective.

Hoofsure Endurance is a concentrated solution requiring only 1 litre in 100 litres of water making it very cost-effective.

The farm also uses Hoofsure Combat spray for scald and foot rot cases on sheep that are noticeably lame.

Eoin is quick to point out that taking a preventative approach with regular footbathing saves a lot of labour in the long run because they have to catch fewer lame sheep and the sheep are standing and moving correctly.

Despite the recent wetter conditions and muddy areas in fields, lameness has not spiked within the flock and Eoin puts that down to consistent use of Hoofsure Endurance.

Vitamin and minerals

As the summer grazing season starts to come to an end, grass quality will begin to decline, resulting in trace element intakes also dropping.

This can have a bigger impact in hill ground, which is generally poorer in nutritional value, which can impact the thrive and weight gain of all stock – especially lambs.  Therefore, Eoin and his brother will give lambs born this year at least three vitamin/mineral drenches, at ‘marking up’, shearing and weaning with Provita’s high spec 26 trace element ProVitaMin.

This will boost the lambs trace element levels, so they make the best use of forage intake to keep putting on plenty of much needed weight and flesh.

Also, gimmers presented to sales will also be drenched with ProVitaMin to give them that attractive bloom and tightness in the fleece.

Furthermore, buyers should be confident that the sheep should suffer little setbacks and continue to perform when introduced to their own flocks.  Customer satisfaction is important to Eoin when selling any of his stock.

Tupping at Crockataggart farms starts late October aiming for early April lambing onwards.  Although pre-tupping planning starts now, with breeding ewes selected and then in mid-September, all ewes and rams are given a pre-tupping ProVitaMin drench to optimise fertility and boost scanning rates.

Eoin was happy to see the first year using ProVitaMin generating a 12% increase in scanning rate, hence why it continues to be a part of the pre-tupping schedule.


Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, +44 7841 926219.

Why use Advance+ for sheep

Why use Advance+ for sheep

Making better silage this season will pay for itself come wintertime when feeding pregnant ewes.


Why? Because Advance+ will:

Produce a more energy dense silage

Increased silage intakes by ewes

Reduce meal costs, especially close up to lambing dates

Less spoilage so less problems/issues associated with that

Less waste so more silage is fed and unnecessarily dumped


  • it costs approx. £1 for you to treat 1 tonne of silage
  • This will feed 100 ewes carrying twins for circa. 2 days
  • This means it will cost half a penny in Advance+ to feed each ewe for the 2 days!
  • This investment will be easily returned in meal cost savings in later pregnancy


#Advance+ #betterforagebettesheep #makesilagepaythiswinter #inforpennyinforpound


Now is the time to Advance+ your forage and make every tonne count

This year has been one of change and uncertainty, and we aren’t just talking about agriculture!  Prices have fluctuated considerably, for good and bad on all sectors and the weather has been challenging.  It started with a very wet start to Spring and then straight into an extended period of hotter drier conditions.  Grass found it hard to adapt to the conditions, with later manure and fertiliser applications and it never really hit the typical May growth peaks.  As such 1st cut yields were lower than expected, albeit in favourable dry conditions but there is some catch up needed so that clamps and bale yards are full for the winter feeding period.

Farms will be looking to capitalise on the remaining grass cuts and alternative forages to make up any deficit in 1st cut yields.  Reports around the country are that 2nd cuts are looking good and have yielded well.  With every tonne of silage important, farms should be looking to minimise dry matter (DM) losses from forage at ensiling.  Research has shown that dry matter losses are costing UK farmers on average £25 per tonne of DM.  Simple changes in silage making practices like ensuring a rapid wilt to a target of 30% DM as quickly as possible to make sure grass is dry enough for the clamp or bale while avoiding losses of essential nutrients.  Also using a silage additive like Advance+ will drive a faster fermentation once ensiled thus reducing DM losses during this process to improve protein and sugar levels and intake potential.

Advance+ consistently improves silage quality when forage analyses are taken.  Based on data from a bank of 200+ samples from 2018, Advance+ had the following benefits:

  1. Reduction of 3.5% DM losses i.e. extra 35 tonne DM in 1000 tonne clamp
  2. Extra 0.52 MJ/kg of Metabolisable Energy (ME) which can provide extra 1.5 L of milk from forage
  3. Extra 46% sugar content as Advance+ bugs are more efficient during fermentation

If you are now thinking to yourself now that you want to reduce DM losses during ensilage and that you want more nutrients in your silage, then you need to be using a silage additive like Advance+ on every cut.

Provita Advance+ provides such dependable results because of the unique EU-approved triple strain combination.  All strains of bacteria in Advance+ are registered with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which requires extensive dossiers covering quality, safety, and efficacy.  Being a multi-strain product it also increases reliability over a wider range of conditions which is very useful for the unpredictable weather conditions we can have.  Applied at the recommended rate, Advance+ is guaranteed to supply 1.2 million bacteria per gram of forage.  This high level of inoculant means sufficient numbers of bacteria are present to kick start and accelerate the fermentation process to lock in that goodness in the silage as demonstrated above.  There is lot of research to show that for green crops in the UK, a minimum of 1 million bacteria per gram of forage needs to be applied, as additives containing less will not be cost effective and will not control the preservation you require.

Using Advance+ will improve face stability and prevent heating because of the inclusion of acetic acid forming bacteria in the mixture.  Although it is more of an insurance policy to help some inaccuracies in the ensiling process, care will need to be taken to avoid over-wilting as spoilage organisms will build up on the crop the longer it is left and adequate rolling at filling time will help consolidation.  Yet Advance+ is very effective at reducing spoilage, moulding and heating issues at silage face provided normal silage management is good

Silages treated with Advance+ consistently show more true protein, more energy and higher digestibility resulting in improved animal performance.  So by not using a silage additive you are not saving money, it is actually costing you money because the losses are greater and animals will underperform and require more concentrates to make up the difference!

Typically using Advance+ will yield a return on investment of 6:1 even in good weather.  Advance+ will have a cost equivalent to 4-5 pence per cow per day and calculated milk yield response can be 1.5 Litres per cow per day.  Therefore for no more than 5 pence you are likely to get back at least 30 pence on every cow, every day.  I think you can agree this is a reasonable investment!

Francis and Joe Connon, Limavady know the benefits of using Advance+.  They run a 220 dairy herd and anaerobic digester (AD) on the outskirts of Limavady.  New entrants to dairy having started in July 2019, having reduced the suckler herd and finishing numbers.  A big focus for them has always been to make the best quality silage for the milking herd, youngstock and ADs to maximise profits from forage.  Most years will see Joe ensile 1800-2000 acres of forage, predominantly grass, along with rye and maize. Joe recently commented that “all grass silage was very good quality and despite being dry it fed out very well.  We also used Advance+ on the rye crop last year and fermentation and stability was 100%. We plan to cut rye next week, then onto 2nd cut on the following days which will all be treated with Advance+”.

With Joe taking care of much of the day-to-day running of the dairy unit and ADs, this leaves Francis more time to focus on his other business at Connon’s General Merchants, Kells, Ballymena.  Having such good results with Advance+ on his own farming enterprises, Francis is pleased to stock Advance+ to supply local customers so they gain the same benefits.

Advance+ has been specifically formulated to be used on grass, wholecrop and maize forages to provide optimum fermentation and stability characteristics.  This multi-purpose nature of Advance+ has helped grow its popularity for wholecrop and maize applications.  Co. Armagh milk producer and Artisan cheese maker at Ballylisk, Dean Wright will grow approximately 40-45 acres of wholecrop each year.  Having tried Advance+ on wholecrop a few years, after great success on grass silage, the results were just as pleasing.  Dean explained, “having to handle only one additive is 1 less thing to think about and Advance+ does a great job fermenting the wholecrop, with very little spoilage and keeping it cool at the face through the winter.  I cannot justify paying a higher price for a wholecrop specific additive when Advance+ does as good a job.”

For more information contact George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, 07841 926219.  *references available on request

Advance+ silage inoculant unique formulation

It looks like Spring has finally sprung for 2020 with a much needed drier spell over the last 10 days to allow final application of slurry and fertiliser to first cut silage fields. With warmer temperatures due this weekend, grass growth should be in a perfect position to respond well.  Farmers have the ability to control forage quality, albeit except for weather conditions, therefore good attention to detail at this early stage in the season will pay dividends when it comes around to feeding later in the year.   Making positive gains in dry matter, energy, protein, stability etc. will accumulate to a better overall forage and generate more milk or weight gain – key performance indicators for improving farm profitability.  Advance+ 2019 sample results were very pleasing; Provita are happy to discuss examples of these analyses with farmers.

Provita research and development team have improved Advance+ formulation so that its shelf life is extended to up to 24 months.  Provita guarantee that when the product is stored correctly, the high inclusion levels of 1.2million cfu/g, will be maintained throughout the new extended shelf-life and this will be reflected in consistently achieving the proven efficacy results.  Provita Advance+ silage inoculant is a unique formulation combining EU approved and UFAS approved lactic and acetic acid bacterial strains.  Performance benefits include +1 litre of milk per cow per day and up to +30% better growth rates.  Better fermentation is also shown with 46% more sugar, 33% less ammonia and double stability time at feed out. (Source: EU reg data and in-house data)

Co Armagh dairy producer and owner of Ballylisk Dairies, Dean Wright, uses Advance+ on all forage types.  Dean knows the importance of achieving the best possible fermentation and preservation of the silage.  That is why he chooses to use Advance+ on every crop and has done consistently for over 6 years.  Annual forage analysis and mini-silo tests confirm every time the benefit of applying Advance+ to forage.  Each analysis returns levels of dry matter, metabolizable energy, pH, sugars, protein and D-values that are always superior to untreated samples adding extra value to the silage and results in a genuine return of investment for the farm.  Dean is targeting more milk production from forage and making the best quality silage with the help of Advance+ is key to this goal.

Independent Feeds, a Cheshire based company are a fantastic partner in distributing Provita Advance+ under the name Provita Provance in Great Britain. Andrew Henderson, Chief Executive, Independent Feeds explains why they chose Provita ‘I have sold silage inoculant for over twenty years and took the decision to move to Provita’s inoculant in 2017, as their data from mini-silo tests was very encouraging. We have performed mini-silo tests ourselves for the last two years and have therefore been able to show the benefits to farmers as they can see their own farm results. Over 90% of the people re-ordered in our second year, on the back of the great success rate they had seen, and sales continue to grow year on year.  Thousands of treated tonnes confirmed for 2020 season’

*References available on request

Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser, 41 92 6219.  FREEPHONE 0800 338 4982 for your local stockist and ADVANCE+ SPECIAL OFFERS

Hoofsure Endurance: Tried and Tested against Copper Sulfate and Formaldhyde


Andrew Dale milks 110 Fleckvieh and Fleckvieh-cross cows near Limavady in partnership with his parents.  Rolling yields are around 6,500 litres with the aim to breakthrough 7,000 litre threshold soon.  The farm is focused on maximising output from forage with extended grazing and quality silage made.  Zero grazing has been introduced in the past two years to help achieve this aim on this fragmented farm.  In Spring 2017, Andrew identified a build-up of Digital Dermatitis (DD) related lameness and levels were unacceptably high for him. He contacted Provita and availed of the complimentary parlour and mobility scoring.  After the cows were scored it was confirmed that DD was indeed high with 70% of cows displaying various stages of DD.  Andrew was committed to reducing this figure by all means necessary.

Initially the cows were spot sprayed with Hoofsure Endurance at 25% dilution for 2 weeks followed by daily footbathing.  “We could see rapid progress within a few weeks, initially the active stages dropped down to 35%, and then further to 5% to 10%” confirmed Andrew. “We now manage to keep levels to this low percentage the majority of the year, with small intermittent rises when in the middle of autumn peak calving and full time winter housing commences.  But I know by keeping an eye on it, spraying more cows in the parlour, increasing the footbath frequency I get on top of it quickly.  Currently I am running the footbath daily at 2-3% as I have numerous freshly calved and early lactation cows going through which I want to keep right from day 1 and I know it will pay off as the winter months pass.”  Andrew has also noticed that the cows mobility is much improved, they are much more settled in the parlour and at the feed bunk and he has culled less cows due to lameness also.

Milking cows are footbathed 5-7 days per week and dry cows and heifers at least once a week. Andrew commented, “regularly footbathing the dry cows and heifers has made a big difference and was quite easy to implement.  I now see less problems with freshly calved animals with DD and lameness and cows calve down with less problems too.  We have new heifer accommodation built on farm for this Autumn and I have made arrangements to have footbathing facilities in it.”

At the start of the programme back in 2017 there was a fair investment made in the product but by sticking with the recommendations we have seen very good results. I find the contact from Provita staff beneficial as it is an extra incentive to make sure you stick to the plan so that you don’t allow the DD levels to start to increase again. Also a fresh set of eyes can see things that you miss whenever you are trying to juggle all the various jobs that need done on a daily basis around the farm. With the feet right, the cows are performing better, overall health is very good and I believe every animal is nearing their full potential. I am now in the fortunate position where I can be more selective in breeding strategy as I can afford to let go of under-performing cows and hit the herd target of 7,000 litres per cow sooner rather than later.”

For more information please contact George Shaw, Technical Adviser on 078 4192 6219 or Provita on 0800 328 4982.

Holiday Office Closure

We would like to thank all our customers for their business throughout the year of 2019. We wish you a very happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.


Office close down period  – Closing Monday 23rd December at 5.30pm and will reopen on Thursday 2nd Jan at 8.30am.  Last dispatch Friday 20th December.  First dispatch Monday 6th January 2020.  For anything urgent during this period, please email


Bud Guard spray for post debudding  is the latest new product from Provita Animal Health.

Bud Guard 500ml contains organic acids and essential oils (antibacterial and antifungal properties).  It is antibiotic free and It contains a unique film-forming agent that creates a water-proof barrier to help prevent contamination and aid quick healing.  The physical barrier from the spray helps to seal the area and reduce bleeding, if accidentally hit by calves when returned to pens or pasture.  For use once calf has been properly debudded with hot iron under anaesthesia.  It is simple to use, spray until area is sufficiently covered.


Horned cattle are a major management problem on farm, causing significant risks for both handlers and other stock.  Therefore calves should be debudded as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary dehorning procedures undertaken by vets only.  Dehorning does carry greater risks due to handling and side effects like cattle not thriving as well after due to the pain and stress.

Debudding is less likely to see regrowth of horn tissue as smaller buds are easier to remove completely by hot iron which is the preferred method.  Also there will be less problems and impact on thrift after debudding younger calves as appropriate anaesthesia and pain relief under adequate restraint can be done easily.

Written by George Shaw, Technical Adviser.  FREEPHONE 0800 328 4982