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Publication #VM196

Can Maternal Colostrum Be Replaced by Commercial Products for Feeding Newborn Calves?1

Klibs N. Galvao2

Introduction

Colostrum management and feeding are critical for calf health, calves’ future productive life, and farm profitability (Robison et al. 1988; Faber et al. 2005). Current recommendations state that a calf needs to ingest at least 150–200 g of immunoglobulin G (IgG) within two hours of birth to achieve successful passive transfer (Chigerwe et al. 2008a). It is understood that this can be reached by feeding 3–4 L of good quality maternal colostrum (MC); namely, a MC with IgG concentration greater than 50g/L, a bacterial count less than 100,000 cfu/mL, and a coliform count less than 10,000 cfu/mL (McGuirk and Collins 2004; Chigerwe et al. 2008a). A colostrometer can be used as an on-the-farm test for guidance on colostrum quality. When the colostrometer reads 70g/L or more, then the colostrum contains at least 50g/L IgG (Chigerwe et al. 2008b).

However, when colostrum quality is poor or unavailable, colostrum replacer (CR) may be a suitable alternative to MC because it is easier to store and process. Colostrum replacer may have advantages over MC when considering bacterial contamination, as recent studies have found that feeding CR can reduce the transmission of Johne’s disease by 44% (Pithua et al. 2009). Researchers have found varying success rates of passive transfers when CR is used. While Poulsen et al. (2010) found no significant difference in rates of passive transfer between a bovine serum-based CR and maternal colostrums, Swan et al. (2007) found higher rates of passive transfer failure when CR was fed, which could impair health and survival. Fidler et al. (2011) and Godden et al. (2009) found similar results when calves were fed a commercial CR at the recommended dose. Despite higher rates of failure of passive transfer, a recent report found no difference in mortality rates from birth to first calving (Pithua et al. 2010). Nonetheless, others have observed that mortality was twice as high for heifers with passive transfer failure compared to heifers with successful transfer (Robison et al. 1988; Wells et al. 1996). More information on morbidity and mortality of calves fed CR would improve the body of knowledge and help the producer make an informed decision about colostrum feeding management.

Therefore, the objective of this article is to present the results of a recent publication (Priestley et al. 2013) that evaluated the effects of feeding MC, one dose of plasma-derived CR (PDCR), or one dose of colostrum-derived CR (CDCR) on serum total protein (TP), IgG concentration, calf morbidity (disease incidence), calf mortality, and weight gain from birth to weaning.

Calf Performance Receiving MC or CR

At birth, calves were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups—MC (n = 49): 3.8 L of maternal colostrum; PDCR (n = 49): 550 g (one dose; 150g of IgG) of a PDCR; CDCR (n = 49): 470 g (one dose; 100g IgG) of a CDCR. Serum TP were greater (P < 0.05) for calves fed MC (mean ± SE; 6.14 ± 0.11 g/dL) than for calves fed PDCR (5.29 ± 0.11 g/dL) and CDCR (5.27 ± 0.11 g/dL). Serum IgG concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) for calves fed MC (2,098 ± 108 g/dL) than for calves fed PDCR (927 ± 107 g/dL) and CDCR (1139 ± 108 g/dL). Apparent efficiency of absorption was greater (P < 0.05) for CDCR than PDCR (38.8 ± 3.0 vs. 21.6 ± 3.0%). Adequate passive transfer was greatest for MC (91.8%), followed by CDCR (49%) and PDCR (28.6%) (Figure 1). Calves fed MC had greater weaning weights (61.2 vs. 58.4; P < 0.05) and body weight gain than calves fed CR (24.6 vs. 21.8; P < 0.05; Figure 2). Morbidity (pneumonia, diarrhea, septic arthritis, or navel ill) was lower (P < 0.05) for calves fed MC (46.9%) than for calves fed PDCR (71.4%) or CDCR (67.3%) (Figure 3). Calves fed MC tended (P = 0.06) to have lower mortality than calves fed CR (8.2 vs. 20.4%; Figure 4) as well.

Figure 1. 

Proportion of calves with successful passive transfer of immunity (serum IgG ≥ 1000 mg/dL). MC = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 3.8 L of maternal colostrum; PDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 550 g of plasma-derived colostrum replacer (Acquire Colostrum Replacer) containing 150 g of IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution; CDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 470 g of colostrum-derived colostrum replacer (Alta Calf’s Choice Total Balanced) containing 100g IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution. abcLetters above bars indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between groups. abcLetters above bracket indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between MC and CR (CDCR + PDCR).


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Figure 2. 

Weight gain from birth to calving. MC = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 3.8 L of maternal colostrum; PDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 550 g of plasma-derived colostrum replacer (Acquire Colostrum Replacer) containing 150 g of IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution; CDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 470 g of colostrum-derived colostrum replacer (Alta Calf’s Choice Total Balanced) containing 100g IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution. abcLetters above bars indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between groups. abcLetters above bracket indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between MC and CR (CDCR + PDCR).


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Figure 3. 

Proportion of sick (pneumonia, diarrhea, septic arthritis, or navel ill) calves from birth to weaning. MC = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 3.8 L of maternal colostrum; PDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 550 g of plasma-derived colostrum replacer (Acquire Colostrum Replacer) containing 150 g of IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution; CDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 470 g of colostrum-derived colostrum replacer (Alta Calf’s Choice Total Balanced) containing 100g IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution. abcLetters above bars indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between groups. abcLetters above bracket indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between MC and CR (CDCR + PDCR).


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Figure 4. 

Proportion of dead calves from birth to weaning. MC = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 3.8 L of maternal colostrum; PDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 550 g of plasma-derived colostrum replacer (Acquire Colostrum Replacer) containing 150 g of IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution; CDCR = calves (n = 49) that within two hours of birth were fed 470 g of colostrum-derived colostrum replacer (Alta Calf’s Choice Total Balanced) containing 100g IgG dissolved in warm water to make 3.8 L of solution. abcLetters above bars indicate significantly differences (P < 0.05) between groups. ABLetters above bracket indicate a tendency towards significance (P = 0.06) between MC and CR (CDCR + PDCR).


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Conclusion

Given the conditions of this trial, feeding 3.8 L of MC was a better option than feeding one dose of CR. Based on the results for successful passive transfer of immunity, if MC is not available at the farm, then feeding at least two doses of a colostrum-derived CR would be recommended. Another possible use of CR is to improve the quality of MC with a colostrometer reading < 70 g/L. In that case, one dose of colostrum-derived CR should be mixed with 3.8 L of MC. Nonetheless, further research is needed to evaluate calf performance when a higher dose of CR is fed.

References

Chigerwe, M., J. W. Tyler, L. G. Schultz, J. R. Middleton, B. J. Steevens, and J. N. Spain. 2008a. “Effect of colostrum administration by use of oroesophageal intubation on serum IgG concentrations in Holstein bull calves.” Am J Vet Res 69: 1158–63.

Chigerwe, M., J. W. Tyler, J. R. Middleton, J. N. Spain, J. S. Dill, and B. J. Steevens. 2008b. “Comparison of four methods to assess colostral IgG concentration in dairy cows.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 233: 761–766.

Faber, S. N., N. E. Faber, T. C. McCauley, and R. L. Ax. 2005. “Effects of Colostrum Ingestion on Lactational Performance.” Prof Anim Sci 21: 420–425.

Fidler, A. P., M. L. Alley, and G. W. Smith. 2011. “Short communication: serum immunoglobulin G and total protein concentrations in dairy calves fed a colostrum-replacement product.” J Dairy Sci 94: 3609–3612.

Godden, S. M., D. M. Haines, and D. Hagman. 2009a. “Improving passive transfer of immunoglobulins in calves. I: dose effect of feeding a commercial colostrum replacer.” J Dairy Sci 92: 1750–1757.

McGuirk. S. M., and M. Collins. 2004. “Managing the production, storage, and delivery of colostrum.” Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 20: 593–603.

Pithua, P., S. M. Godden, S. J. Wells, and M. J. Oakes. 2009. “Efficacy of feeding plasma-derived commercial colostrum replacer for the prevention of transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis in Holstein calves.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 234: 1167–1176.

Pithua, P., S. M. Godden, J. Fetrow, and Wells SJ. 2010. “Effect of a plasma-derived colostrum replacement feeding program on adult performance and longevity in Holstein cows.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 236: 1230–1237. Erratum in: J Am Vet Med Assoc 240: 1322.

Poulsen, K. P., A. L. Foley, M. T. Collins, and S. M. McGuirk. 2010. “Comparison of passive transfer of immunity in neonatal dairy calves fed colostrum or bovine serum-based colostrum replacement and colostrum supplement products.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 237: 949–954.

Priestley D, Bittar JH, Ibarbia L, Risco CA, Galvão KN. 2013. “Effect of feeding maternal colostrum or plasma-derived or colostrum-derived colostrum replacer on passive transfer of immunity, health, and performance of preweaning heifer calves.” J Dairy Sci 96: 3247–3256.

Robison, J. D., G. H. Stott, and S. K. DeNise. 1988. “Effects of passive immunity on growth and survival in the dairy heifer.” J Dairy Sci 71: 1283–1287.

Swan, H., S. Godden, R. Bey, S. Wells, J. Fetrow, and H. Chester-Jones. 2007. “Passive transfer of immunoglobulin G and preweaning health in Holstein calves fed a commercial colostrum replacer.” J Dairy Sci 90: 3857–3866.

Wells, S. J., D. A. Dargatz, and S. L. Ott. 1996. “Factors associated with mortality to 21 days of life in dairy herds in the United States.” Prev Vet Med 29: 9–19.

Footnotes

1.

This document is VM196, one of a series of the College of Veterinary Medicine-Large Animal Clinical Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2014. Reviewed February 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Klibs N. Galvao, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.