Factors associated with colostrum quality in individual cows from dairy herds in the Waikato region of New Zealand

Factors associated with colostrum quality in individual cows from dairy herds in the Waikato region of New Zealand
Peer reviewed


AIMS: To examine associations between various cow-level factors and quality of first-milking colostrum (measured as Brix), and to evaluate herd-level associations between vaccination against calf diarrhoea and colostrum quality, in cows from dairy herds in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

METHODS: A single colostrum sample was collected, by complete udder evacuation, from each of 20 cows from 29 dairy herds in the Waikato region of New Zealand during the 2016 spring calving period. Vaccination pre-partum with a calf diarrhoea vaccine was used in 15 herds. Each colostrum sample was tested using a digital Brix refractometer. The body condition score of each cow was recorded at the time of sample collection and farmers provided records of clinical mastitis and facial eczema from the previous 12 months, as well as the age and breed of cows. Associations between cow-level variables in non-vaccinated herds and Brix were examined using a multivariable linear mixed model and estimated marginal means obtained for different categories.

RESULTS: Mean Brix of 281 samples from cows in non-vaccinated herds was 18.7 (SD 0.26)%; 63/281 (22.4%) samples had Brix ≥22% and 152/281 (54.1%) had Brix ≥18%. Mean Brix of colostrum samples from cows aged ≥6 years (20.2 (95% CI=19.1–21.2)%) was higher than for samples from 2-year-old cows (18.6 (95% CI=17.3–19.9)%) (p=0.005). Colostrum that was collected at the first milking on the day of calving had higher Brix (20.0 (95% CI=19.1–20.9)%) than colostrum collected from cows that calved the previous day (17.5 (95% CI=16.5–18.4)%) (p<0.001). Mean Brix of colostrum samples from cows which produced ≥8 L (18.2 (95% CI=17.1–19.2)%) tended to be lower than from cows which produced <8 L first-milking colostrum (19.1 (95% CI=18.3–20.0)%) (p=0.08). Among vaccinating herds, 9/15 (60%) had ≥60% colostrum samples with Brix ≥18% compared with 4/14 (29%) of non-vaccinating herds (p=0.04).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Colostrum quality, as measured by Brix, was associated with the total volume of first-milking colostrum, interval from calving to colostrum collection and cow age. Vaccination against calf diarrhoea was associated with a higher proportion of colostrum samples with adequate Brix. Careful selection of colostrum donor cows should ensure newborn calves are fed adequate quality colostrum which should be beneficial in preventing failure of passive transfer of IgG. Testing of colostrum from individual cows with a Brix refractometer is advocated for the selection of colostrum for feeding newborn calves.

KEY WORDS: Individual, cow, colostrum, risk factors, New Zealand

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