Calves are born agammaglobulinemic and are dependent on the intake and uptake of immunoglobulins from colostrum for protection against infectious diseases in early life. Failure to absorb sufficient immunoglobulins in the correct timeframe after birth is termed failure of transfer of passive immunity (FPT). FPT has been defined as a serum IgG concentration ([sIgG]) of under 10 g/L in dairy calves, as [sIgG] over 10g/L has been associated with a decreased risk of mortality and morbidity. In beef calves, a [sIgG] of under 24 g/L has also been shown to be predictive of increased morbidity and mortality. Currently there is limited data relating to the prevalence and risk factors of FPT in the beef sector. This cross-sectional study quantified [sIgG] in 1131 blood samples taken from beef suckler calves born on 84 farms in Great Britain in spring 2018 (mean 13.5 calves sampled per farm, range 3-22). Age of calves at sampling ranged from 1-13 days. The estimated prevalence of calves with [sIgG] <10 g/L in this study population was 15% (n= 145 calves), whilst 37% (n= 396 calves) calves had a [sIgG] <24 g/L. 22 out of the 84 farms had no calves sampled with [sIgG] <10 g/L. Risk factors predictive of [sIgG] were calculated using generalised linear mixed models, with farm included as a random effect. Calving assistance was significant and increased the likelihood of [sIgG] concentrations <10 g/L and [sIgG] <24 g/L, Odds Ratio (OR) 1.66 (1.05-2.62 95% CI) and 1.91 (1.33-2.74 95% CI) respectively. All three levels of assistance with colostrum feeding used in this study were significant for calves having a [sIgG] <24 g/L (Lead to dam OR = 1.85 (1.11-3.06 95% CI), Bottle/tube fed dam’s colostrum OR = 2.35 (1.29-4.30 95% CI), Bottle/tube fed artificial colostrum OR = 3.78 (1.86-7.70 95% CI), whilst bottle/tube feeding either dam’s or artificial colostrum were also significant for [sIgG] <10 g/L, OR 2.66 (1.32-5.36 95% CI) and 2.34 (1.09-5.02 95% CI) respectively. Male calves had a higher likelihood for [sIgG] <10 g/L, OR 1.68 (1.12-2.54 95% CI) whereas being a twin or being born to a heifer were predictive of having a [sIgG] <24 g/L (OR 3.31 (1.64-6.71 95% CI), OR 1.57 (1.05-2.35 95% CI) respectively). This study raises important questions with respect to management practices around calving and highlights the need for reviewing protocols with respect to colostrum assistance and calving assistance on beef farms.
- Passive transfer
- Risk factors