Evaluation of the Brix refractometer to estimate immunoglobulin G concentration in bovine colostrum


Refractometry using a Brix refractometer has been proposed as a means to estimate IgG concentration in bovine maternal colostrum (MC). The refractometer has advantages over other methods of estimating IgG concentration in that the Brix refractometer is inexpensive, readily available, less fragile, and less sensitive to variation in colostral temperature, season of the year and other factors. Samples of first-milking MC were collected from 7 dairy farms in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut (n = 84) and 1 dairy farm in California (n = 99). The MC was milked from the cow at 6.1 ± 5.6 h postparturition and a sample was evaluated for Brix percentage by using an optical refractometer. Two additional samples (30 mL) were collected from the milk bucket, placed in vials, and frozen before analysis of total IgG by radial immunodiffusion (RID) using commercially available plates and by turbidimetric immunoassay (TIA). The second sample was analyzed for total bacterial counts and coliform counts at laboratories in New York (Northeast samples) and California (California samples). The Brix percentage (mean ± SD) was 23.8 ± 3.5, IgG concentration measured by RID was 73.4 ± 26.2 g/L, and IgG concentration measured by TIA was 67.5 ± 25.0 g/L. The Brix percentage was highly correlated (r = 0.75) with IgG analyzed by RID. The Brix percentage cut point to define high- or low-quality colostrum (50 g of IgG/L measured by RID) that classified more samples correctly given the proportion of high- (86%) and low-quality (14%) samples in this study was 21%, which is slightly lower than other recent estimates of Brix measurements. At this cut point, the test sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy were 92.9, 65.5, 93.5, 63.3, and 88.5%, respectively. Measurement of IgG by TIA correlated with Brix (r = 0.63) and RID (r = 0.87); however, TIA and RID methods of IgG measurement were not consistent throughout the range of samples tested. We conclude that Brix measurement of total solids in fresh MC is an inexpensive, rapid, and satisfactorily accurate method of estimating IgG concentration. A cut point of 21% Brix to estimate samples of MC >50 g/L was most appropriate for our data. Measurement of IgG in MC by TIA differed from measurement by RID.


Biological Sciences

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Journal of Dairy Science



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© 2013 American Dairy Science Association.