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Lora, Isabella (2017) Management of newborn calves in italian dairy farms. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Despite of their great impact on animal welfare and on farm incomes, morbidity and mortality rates of dairy replacement animals are often underestimated by dairy farmers. The highest risk of morbidity and mortality is usually recorded within the first months of the calf life. Because calves are born nearly deprived of antibodies, they strictly depend on colostrum ingestion to acquire the immune protection against infectious pathogens. Improper colostrum provision could lead to failure of transfer of passive immunity (FTPI), which is recognized to be the first relevant factor that affect calf health and survival. There is a lack of knowledge on mortality rates of young stock in Italian dairy farms and on the prevalence of FTPI in Italian dairy calves. Aims of this thesis were to preliminary investigate mortality rates of calves and heifers in Italian dairy farms, and then to evaluate different colostrum management practices in relationship to FTPI. Finally, it was investigated the association between passive immunity and health in calves. The median value of mortality rate in dairy farms was 5% in young stock of less than <12 mo of age and 0% in heifers from 12 to 24 mo of age. However, the wide variability among farms (n = 95) pointed out a serious situation in about one third of them, which showed excessively high mortality rates in at least one of the two age categories. The overall percentage of calves with FTPI was 41%, with a generally high within-farm prevalence (>20% in 71% of the 21 enrolled farms). Colostrum management practices, in terms of delivery time, amount, and quality of the first colostrum meal, were strictly related to calf serum Ig concentration: the level of passive immunity in calves increased linearly as the management of colostrum improved. To allow the calf to nurse colostrum from the dam, supported by the farmer assistance, was the best practice of colostrum provision in terms of transfer of passive immunity. However, it implied considerable calf-dam separation distress. The use of commercial colostrum supplements (CS) could be valuable in improving the transfer of passive immunity in calves. However, the CS tested in this thesis failed to prevent FTPI and to reduce the occurrence of calf neonatal diseases. Finally, outcomes of this thesis confirmed the importance of passive immunity to calf health, and particularly to calf neonatal diarrhea. In conclusion, great improvements are needed in newborn calf management in Italian dairy farms, and proper colostrum provision is the first step to improve calf health and welfare.

Abstract (italian)

I tassi di morbilità e mortalità negli animali da rimonta sono spesso sottovalutati dagli allevatori di vacche da latte, nonostante il loro considerevole impatto sul benessere animale e sui profitti dell’azienda. Il periodo di maggior rischio per la salute dei vitelli si concentra nei primi mesi di vita. Poiché i vitelli nascono praticamente privi di anticorpi, essi devono assumere il colostro per poter acquisire la protezione immunitaria contro gli agenti patogeni. La non corretta somministrazione del colostro può comportare il fallimento del trasferimento dell’immunità passiva (FTPI), che è considerato uno dei principali fattori di rischio per la salute e la sopravvivenza dei vitelli. Nelle aziende di vacche da latte italiane, i tassi di mortalità del giovane bestiame e la prevalenza di FTPI non sono ben noti. Gli obiettivi di questa tesi sono stati la definizione di tali tassi e la valutazione dell’associazione tra diverse pratiche di colostratura e FTPI, e tra immunità passiva e salute dei vitelli. La mediana del tasso di mortalità negli allevamenti di vacche da latte è stata di 5% per gli animali di età <12 mesi, e di 0% per le manze tra i 12 e i 24 mesi di vita. Tuttavia, l’ampia variabilità tra le aziende (n = 95) ha rivelato, per entrambe le categorie di età, tassi di mortalità elevati in circa un terzo degli allevamenti. La percentuale complessiva dei vitelli con FTPI è stata del 41%, con una prevalenza aziendale generalmente elevata (>20% nel 71% dei 21 allevamenti indagati). Le pratiche di colostratura, in termini di tempo di somministrazione, quantità e qualità del primo pasto dopo la nascita, erano strettamente correlate alla concentrazione sierica di Ig dei vitelli, che aumentava in modo lineare al migliorare della gestione del colostro. La colostratura dei vitelli sotto la madre, con l’assistenza dell’allevatore, è risultata essere il metodo migliore di somministrazione del colostro in termini di trasferimento dell’immunità passiva. Tuttavia, questo metodo comporta un notevole stress alla separazione degli animali. L’uso di prodotti commerciali che integrano il colostro materno potrebbe essere utile per migliorare il trasferimento dell’immunità passiva nei vitelli. Tuttavia, il prodotto testato in questa tesi non è risultato efficace nella prevenzione di FTPI e patologie neonatali. Infine, è stata confermata l’importanza dell’immunità passiva per la salute del vitello, in particolare verso le diarree neonatali. In conclusione, la gestione del vitello neonato nelle aziende di vacche da latte italiane necessita di importanti miglioramenti, a partire dalla corretta somministrazione del colostro.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Gottardo, Flaviana
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 29 > Corsi 29 > SCIENZE ANIMALI E AGROALIMENTARI
Data di deposito della tesi:01 February 2017
Anno di Pubblicazione:01 February 2017
Key Words:vitello/calf, immunità passiva/passive immunity, colostroo/colostrum, salute/health
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 07 - Scienze agrarie e veterinarie > AGR/19 Zootecnica speciale
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Medicina Animale, Produzioni e Salute
Codice ID:10358
Depositato il:06 Nov 2017 14:04
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