Probiotics are a promising alternative to improve food animal productivity and health. However, scientific evidence that specificmicrobes can be used to benefit animal health and performance is limited. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of administering a live culture of Faecalibacteriumprausnitzii to newborn dairy calves on subsequent growth, health, and fecalmicrobiome. Initially, a safety trial was conducted using 30 newborn bull calves to assess potential adverse effects of the oral and rectal administration of F. prausnitzii to neonatal calves. No adverse reactions, such as increased body temperature or heart and respiratory rates, were observed after the administration of the treatments. All calves survived the experimental period, and there was no difference in fecal consistency score, attitude, appetite or dehydration between the treatment groups. The rectal route was not an efficient practice while the oral route ensures that the full dose is administered to the treated calves. Subsequently, a randomized field trial was completed in a commercial farm with preweaned calves. A total of 554 Holstein heifers were assigned to one of two treatment groups: treated calves (FPTRT) and non-treated calves (control). Treated calves received two oral doses of F. prausnitzii, one at treatment assignment (1st week) and another one week later. The FPTRT group presented significantly lower incidence of severe diarrhea (3.1%) compared with the control group (6.8%). Treated calves also had lower mortality rate associated with severe diarrhea (1.5%) compared to control calves (4.4%). Furthermore, FPTRT calves gained significantly more weight, 4.4 kg over the preweaning period, than controls calves. The relative abundance of F. prausnitzii in the fecal microbiota was significantly higher in the 3rd and 5th weeks of life of FPTRT calves than of the control calves, as revealed by sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Our findings showed that oral administration of F. prausnitzii improves gastrointestinal health and growth of preweaned calves, supporting its use as a potential probiotic.
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