Effect of postpartum collection time and colostrum quality on passive transfer of immunity, performance, and small intestinal development in preweaning calves

P. van Keulen, S.A. McCoard, J. Dijkstra, H. Swansson, M.A. Khan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluated the effects of postpartum collection time and quality of colostrum fed to calves on the failure of passive transfer, growth, and small intestine development in the first 5 wk of life. Newborn calves (Holstein-Friesian × Jersey) were identified at birth and collected either early (E; within 12 h postpartum; n = 20) or late (L; 18–24 h postpartum; n = 20) and fed either high-quality colostrum [HQC, first milking colostrum with Brix% = 23 ± standard deviation (SD) 2] or low-quality colostrum (LQC, mixed colostrum and transition milk with Brix% = 12 ± 1) to create 4 treatments: E-HQC, E-LQC, L-HQC, and L-LQC (n = 10/treatment). After collection, calves (body weight = 32.3 ± 4.6 kg/calf) were fed either HQC or LQC (7.5% of their arrival body weight per feed) for the first 3 (L calves) or 4 feedings (E calves). All calves were then managed and fed similarly using automatic feeders which recorded individual intake of milk replacer and calf starter. Blood samples were taken at d 1 (after collection from dams but before colostrum feeding), 4, 14, and 35 of age to analyze selected metabolites. All calves were killed at d 35 ± 2 of age and histomorphology of duodenum, jejunum, and ileum was evaluated. At collection, 75% of E calves and 58% of L calves had serum total protein ≤52 g/L. At d 4 of age, calves fed HQC had greater serum total protein than calves fed LQC; however, failure of passive transfer (serum total protein ≤52 g/L) incidence did not differ between HQC and LQC. Collection time did not affect the scouring duration, but the amount of electrolyte used to treat sick calves was lower in L versus E calves, whereas feeding HQC versus LQC lowered both the scouring duration and electrolyte use to treat sick calves. Calves fed HQC had a greater total surface area of the duodenum (+23%) and jejunum (+17%) compared with LQC calves. Duodenal crypts were deeper in E-LQC calves than E-HQC and L-HQC calves, whereas L-LQC calves were intermediate. Villus height to crypt depth ratio in duodenum, jejunum, and ileum was greater in HQC than LQC calves. A trend toward greater average daily gain was observed in HQC versus LQC calves (667 vs. 590 g/d) but the average daily gain was not influenced by collection time. Serum IGF-1 at d 4 was higher in HQC versus LQC calves and this might have contributed to greater average daily gain and small intestine development. Calves fed HQC had higher feed conversion ratios (FCR; total body weight gain/total dry matter intake) compared with LQC calves, and L calves had higher FCR compared with E calves. In conclusion, in comparison to feeding LQC, feeding HQC reduced the scouring duration, enhanced surface area of duodenum and jejunum, and improved FCR during the first 5 wk of calf age. Postpartum collection time of calves did not affect small intestine development, but L calves had higher FCR and required a lesser volume of electrolytes to treat scours compared with E calves during the first 35 d of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11931-11944
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • calf nutrition
  • colostrum
  • cow-calf separation
  • small intestine development


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