• Associations between colostrum management, passive immunity, calf-related hygiene practices, and rates of mortality in preweaning dairy calves

      Barry, John; Bokkers, Eddie A.M.; Berry, Donagh; de Boer, Imke J.M.; McClure, J. Trenton; Kennedy, Emer; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-09-11)
      Calves are particularly vulnerable to health issues before weaning and experience high rates of mortality. Poor colostrum quality or substandard colostrum management, combined with poor hygiene, can increase disease susceptibility, contributing to elevated mortality rates. This study aimed to assess colostrum and calf management together with subsequent mortality rates in preweaning calves. Forty-seven Irish spring-calving, pasture-based dairy herds were enrolled in the study. To investigate whether colostrum and hygiene practices change as the calving season progresses, each farm was visited in both the first and last 6 wk of the calving season. The concentration of IgG in 250 colostrum samples and 580 calf serum samples was determined by radial immunodiffusion assay. Mean colostrum IgG concentration was 85 mg/mL, and mean calf serum IgG concentration was 30.9 and 27.1 mg/mL, respectively, in the first and last 6 wk of the calving season. Smaller herd size and younger age at sampling were associated with higher calf serum IgG concentration. Dairy breed calves were associated with higher serum IgG concentrations compared with beef breed calves; no association was detected based on sex. For feeding equipment hygiene, we assessed the presence of protein residues and found that hygiene levels tended to worsen from the first to the final 6 wk of the calving season. We found no association between feeding equipment hygiene and herd size or 28-d calf mortality rate. Colostrum and calf management practices were not associated with either calf serum IgG concentration or 28-d calf mortality rate. We found that IgG concentration in colostrum produced in Irish dairy herds was generally good, although large variation existed, emphasizing the need for assessment of colostrum before feeding. Results also suggested that hygiene practices associated with calf rearing can be improved, particularly in the latter half of the calving season.