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Evaluation of the effects of oral colostrum supplementation during the first fourteen days on the health and performance of preweaned calves


Although ensuring that calves have APT is the most significant management factor to ensure the health of neonatal calves on calf ranches, colostrum supplementation during the first 2 wk of life in calves was effective in reducing diarrheal disease and the use of antimicrobials. The ADG up to 4 wk of age in colostrum-supplemented calves was significantly greater compared with that in control calves, likely because of a combination of greater energy intake through the liquid feed, increased grain intake, and fewer days with diarrhea. Calf ranch systems need to continue to address problems of colostrum-deprived calves, pathogen load, and environmental stress to successfully raise calves and minimize prophylactic and therapeutic antibiotic use. Supplementing calves with a colostrum product may be a valuable tool to achieve these goals.

Increasing concerns about antimicrobial resistance have led to the development and implementation of alternatives to antimicrobial use in animal production. The objective of this clinical trial was to determine the effect of colostrum supplementation of the milk replacer ration on morbidity, mortality, feed intake, and weight gain of preweaned calves. Ninety 1-d-old calves on each of 3 commercial calf ranches were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 groups. Treatment-group calves received 10 g of supplemental immunoglobulin G (IgG) in the form of 70 g of colostrum powder in the milk replacer twice daily for 14 d. The placebo-group calves received a nutritionally equivalent supplement lacking IgG in the milk replacer twice daily for 14 d. Control calves received milk replacer without supplements twice daily. Calves were housed in individual hutches and were weighed on d 1, 28, and 60. Serum was collected on d 2 for serum IgG determination. Daily health evaluations for the first 28 d of life were performed by study personnel blinded to treatment group assignment. Observed illness was treated based on health assessment, rectal temperature, and specific calf ranch protocols. Feed consumption (milk and grain) was recorded. Calves receiving supplemental colostrum had less diarrhea and received fewer antimicrobial treatments than control and placebo calves. The results indicated that calf diarrhea was associated with low serum IgG levels and low-weight calves. Grain consumption and weight gain over the first 28 d of life were significantly greater in colostrum-supplemented calves compared with control calves. No differences in mortality or respiratory disease incidence among groups were detected. Supplemental colostrum during the first 2 wk of life can reduce diarrheal disease in preweaned calves on calf ranches and thereby reduce the amount of antimicrobial treatments needed.


A. C. B. Berge, T. E. Besser, D. A. Moore, and W. M. Sischo1
College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, pullman 99164