Heat-treated colostrum and reduced morbidity in preweaned dairy calves: Results of a randomized trial and examination of mechanisms of effectiveness

S. M. Godden, D. J. Smolenski, M. Donahue, J. M. Oakes, R. Bey, S. Wells, S. Sreevatsan, J. Stabel, J. Fetrow

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A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted using 1,071 newborn calves from 6 commercial dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with the primary objective being to describe the effects of feeding heat-treated colostrum on serum immunoglobulin G concentration and health in the preweaning period. A secondary objective was to complete a path analysis to identify intermediate factors that may explain how feeding heat-treated colostrum reduced the risk for illness. On each farm, colostrum was collected each day, pooled, and divided into 2 aliquots; then, one aliquot was heat-treated in a commercial batch pasteurizer at 60°C for 60. min. Samples of fresh and heat-treated colostrum were collected for standard microbial culture (total plate count and total coliform count, cfu/mL) and for measurement of immunoglobulin G concentrations (mg/mL). Newborn calves were removed from the dam, generally within 30 to 60. min of birth, and systematically assigned to be fed 3.8. L of either fresh (FR, n = 518) or heat-treated colostrum (HT, n = 553) within 2. h of birth. Venous blood samples were collected from calves between 1 and 7. d of age for measurement of serum IgG concentrations (mg/mL). All treatment and mortality events were recorded by farm staff between birth and weaning. Regression models found that serum IgG concentrations were significantly higher in calves fed HT colostrum (18.0 ± 1.5. mg/mL) compared with calves fed FR colostrum (15.4 ± 1.5. mg/ml). Survival analysis using Cox proportional hazards regression indicated a significant increase in risk for a treatment event (any cause) in calves fed FR colostrum (36.5%, hazard ratio = 1.25) compared with calves fed HT colostrum (30.9%). In addition, we observed a significant increase in risk for treatment for scours in calves fed FR colostrum (20.7%, hazard ratio = 1.32) compared with calves fed HT colostrum (16.5%). Path analysis suggested that calves fed HT colostrum were at lower risk for illness because the heat-treatment process caused a significant reduction in colostrum total coliform count, which was associated with a reduced risk for illness as a function of improved serum IgG concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4029-4040
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012



  • Bacteria
  • Colostrum
  • Heat-treatment
  • Morbidity

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