EARLY LIFE CALF NUTRITION AND MANAGEMENT AND THEIR IMPACTS ON HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY
The first four months of a dairy calf’s life provide the foundation for future production and health. Therefore, it is critical that calves are managed to optimize both health and growth, to maximize their potential. Calf morbidity, which leads to less productive animals and is an economic impact on producers, continue to be areas of opportunity in the dairy industry. In addition, the animal agricultural community is working to reduce the use of antibiotics, due to a growing concern regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria. This provides researchers with the challenge of identifying strategies to reduce calf morbidity and mortality, while also decreasing reliance on antibiotics. The objective of this dissertation was to evaluate nutritional strategies supplemented to calves as well as maternal factors that impact colostrum. The studies focused on strategies to improve the innate and adaptive immune responses and growth of the calf, ultimately reducing reliance on antibiotics. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss feeding dairy calves Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation products in milk replacer and solid feeds until 4 months of age. This study concluded that feeding Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation products to calves improves average daily gain and feed efficiency post-weaning and reduces antibiotic treatment incidence for respiratory disease. It also increases the evenness of the fecal microbiome and the acute innate immune response, as determined by increased TNF-α, glucose, and respiration rate during a lipopolysaccharide challenge. Chapter 4 evaluated the effects of feeding dairy calves medium chain fatty acids (C8:0 and C10:0) in milk replacer until 60 days of age. Feeding C8:0 and C10:0 to calves reduced plasma NEFA concentrations around weaning, suggesting the mobilization of less adipose tissue to meet the energy demands of the calf. This trial also determined that vaccinating calves at 3 weeks of age with ovalbumin combined with an aluminum hydroxide adjuvant, is an effective way to evaluate their adaptive immune responses.
Supplementing calves directly is not the only way to impact calf growth and health, maternal factors also impact calf nutrition through colostrum consumption. Last, chapter 5 explored maternal factors that influence the lipidome of colostrum and therefore the lipid intake of the newborn calf. This study concluded that the metabolic status of the cow affects circulating lipids and the lipid content of colostrum. Also, the lipidome of colostrum is distinct from the circulating lipidome of the calf, which is similar to the circulating lipidome of the cow, except for phosphatidylglycerol, where it appears that colostrum serves as the source for the phosphatidylglycerol present in the circulation of the calf. There are many different nutritional strategies that can impact the health and productivity of calves. Calves can be directly supplemented with nutraceuticals like Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation products or medium chain fatty acids, or calf nutrition can be influenced by the maternal factors through the consumption of colostrum.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Animal Sciences
- West Lafayette