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The Colostrum Counsel

Feeding Colostrum After Day 1: Effect Of Colostrum Replacer Supplementation On The Dairy Calf Health And Antibiotic Use

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In pre-weaned dairy calves, inclusion of a colostrum replacer powder to the milk replacer for 14 days showed positive results in reducing incidence of diarrhea, respiratory disease, depression and umbilical disease. Use of antibiotics was significantly less for those receiving the colostrum replacer supplement.

Alternatives to antibiotics are a global concern

Results from previous and current research have indicated that supplementing calves with maternal colostrum or a colostrum replacement product after 24 hours of life improves overall dairy calf health and reduces the use of antibiotics during the pre-weaning period (Berge et al., 2009; Chamorro et al., 2016). Recently, regulatory agencies from the United States and Europe have increased restrictive measures in the use of antibiotics in major food producing animals; however, the development of new antimicrobials for livestock species is negligible and morbidity and mortality losses associated with infectious disease are still common among livestock operations worldwide. Therefore there is an evident need on the development of alternatives to reduce antibiotic use in major food producing animal species such as cattle.

In a recent study published at the Journal of Dairy Sci.1 we were able to demonstrate the beneficial effects of supplementing a commercial colostrum replacement product (CCT-HiCal, SCCL, Saskatoon, Canada) in the milk replacer ration of pre-weaned dairy calves on occurrence of disease and reduction of antibiotic use.

Study design – for 14 days, one group received milk replacer only, the other group received colostrum in the milk replacer twice daily

Two hundred and two 1-d old Holstein dairy calves were assigned to 1 of 2 groups after arrival to a dairy calf rearing facility. Calves assigned to the control group (n=100) received milk replacer (28% crude protein and 20% crude fat) without colostrum inclusion twice daily. Calves assigned to the treatment group (n=102) received 150 g of supplemental colostrum replacer powder (CCT-HiCal) containing ≥20 g of IgG added to their milk replacer twice daily for the first 14 d of life.

Before group assignment, serum samples were collected from all calves to confirm transfer of passive immunity. Calves were evaluated daily until weaning (56 days of life) for signs of clinical disease as well as any treatment with antibiotics. Presentation of clinical disease and antibiotic treatment was recorded daily by personnel blinded to treatment allocation. All calves had adequate transfer of passive immunity (serum IgG > 10 g/L) and most calves had excellent transfer of passive immunity (serum IgG > 15 g/L at 24 h).

Results – colostrum supplemented calves were better protected against diarrhea, respiratory disease and umbilical disease

For calves that received the colostrum replacer powder supplement the probability of having diarrhea, respiratory disease, depression, and umbilical disease was 85%, 54%, 79%, and 82% lower, respectively, than that of calves that did not receive the colostrum replacer powder supplement. This indicates a protective effect of the colostrum replacer powder supplement in the occurrence not only of diarrhea but also of respiratory and umbilical disease.

Additionally, these results also suggest that achieving high levels of IgG from maternal colostrum does not always result in complete protection against infectious pathogens and that factors such as pathogen pressure and specific immunity might play an important role in clinical protection of disease.

Antibiotic use for colostrum supplemented calves was lower than control calves

With respect to antibiotic use, the probability of receiving at least one treatment with antibiotics for calves that received the colostrum replacer supplement was 93% lower than that of calves that did not receive colostrum replacer. This indicates a major effect of the colostrum replacer supplement in the reduction of antibiotic use in supplemented dairy calves.

Why is colostrum beneficial after day 1?

We believe local and possible systemic effects of some of the components of the colostrum replacer powder such as lactoferrin, TNF-α, epidermal growth factor, IL-6, and IL-1β could have provided additional protection through better immune responses against enteric and respiratory pathogens in supplemented calves. The reduction in the overall occurrence of disease in supplemented pre-weaned dairy calves likely resulted in a reduced need of antibiotic treatment. Although colostrum replacement products have been advocated as an alternative to prevent failure in the transfer of passive immunity in calves when availability of maternal colostrum is low or when quality of maternal colostrum is compromised due to low IgG levels or the presence of colostrum-borne pathogens their use post-gut closure after day 1 of life has not been fully investigated.

Based on results from this study, this dried-colostrum colostrum replacement product (CCT-HiCal) could be used as a supplement of the milk replacer diet to decrease morbidity and the associated need for antibiotic therapy in pre-weaned dairy calves irrespective of their status in the transfer of passive immunity.

Chamorro, et al. J. Dairy Sci. 100 2017 2016-11652, Evaluation of the effects of colostrum replacer supplementation of the milk replacer ration on the occurrence of disease, antibiotic therapy, and performance of pre-weaned dairy calves.


Manuel F. Chamorro, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM
Assistant Professor of Livestock and
Field Service, College of Veterinary
Medicine, Kansas State University, and
Technical Veterinary Consultant, SCCL

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