Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The effect of cow-level factors on colostrum quality, passive immunity and health of neonatal calves in a pasture-based dairy operation

Riaan Mulder A B , Geoffrey T. Fosgate A C , Takula Tshuma A and Dirk C. Lourens A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Production Animal studies; Faculty of Veterinary Science; University of Pretoria; Private Bag × 04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa.

B Private Veterinarian, 57 Graaff Reinetrd, Uitenhage 6229, South Africa.

C Corresponding author. Email: geoffrey.fosgate@up.ac.za

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16689
Submitted: 10 May 2016  Accepted: 25 November 2016   Published online: 30 January 2017

Abstract

A study of 95 cows (19 primiparous and 76 multiparous) and their offspring was performed on a pasture-based dairy in the coastal region of South Africa. Collected data included weight changes during the dry period, colostrum immunoglobulin G (IgG) and calf serum IgG at 24–48 h after birth. Colostrum and serum IgG concentrations were measured using radial immunodiffusion and colostrum was regarded as having adequate IgG concentration if the amount was ≥50 g/L. Calf serum IgG concentration of ≥10 g/L was considered an adequate transfer of passive immunity. The median (range in parentheses) colostrum quality for cows with weight loss during the dry period was 23.1 g/L (9.0, 108.1) compared with 61.9 g/L (10.9, 200.0) in cows without weight loss. The median serum IgG of calves from cows with weight loss was 9.9 g/L (0.5, 44.6) compared with 14.0 g/L (0.5, 76.3) in calves from cows that did not lose weight during the dry period. Cows experiencing weight loss were four times more likely to have colostrum with lower concentrations of IgG (OR = 0.25; 95% CI, 0.07–0.88; P = 0.030). Lactation number was also significantly associated with colostrum IgG concentration (P < 0.001), with younger cows tending to have higher IgG concentrations. Failure of passive transfer did not have a significant effect on any calf-health or production variables measured in the study. The effect of dry-cow feeding on colostrum IgG concentration is poorly understood and inadequate pasture management could have an impact on colostrum quality in pasture-based dairy herds.

Additional keywords: dry cow, dry period, nutrition, weight loss.


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