Supplemental lactoferrin improves health and growth of Holstein calves during the preweaning phase


Lactoferrin is a milk protein that exhibits broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties. Previous studies indicated that supplemental lactoferrin may alter the microbial populations in the gut of nonruminants and increase preweaning weight gains in calves. In the present study, 40 Holstein calves were used to examine the effects of supplemental lactoferrin ( 0, 1, 2, or 3 g/ d) on health, growth, and feed intake from 3 d of age to 2 wk postweaning. Lactoferrin was mixed and fed with a nonmedicated milk replacer. Calves were housed in individual pens and offered a textured, nonmedicated starter and water for ad libitum consumption. Body weight and heart girth were measured weekly. Intakes of milk replacer and starter were determined daily. Fecal consistency was monitored three times per week. Calves were weaned when they met certain criteria based on body weight gain and starter intake. Preweaning fecal score responded quadratically, with the group fed 1 g/ d of lactoferrin having the lowest score. Overall and preweaning number of days medicated responded in the same manner as fecal score. Preweaning average daily gain and gain-to-feed ratio increased linearly with lactoferrin supplementation, whereas postweaning gain-to-feed ratio decreased linearly with lactoferrin. Overall average daily heart girth gain increased linearly with lactoferrin. Body weight, weaning age, and dry matter intake were not different among treatments. Based on the observed improved gain-to-feed ratios, increased average daily gains, improved fecal scores, and reduced morbidity in preweaned calves, it appears that lactoferrin may be a beneficial supplement in the diets of neonatal calves prior to weaning.

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Journal of dairy science


American Dairy Science Association

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© American Dairy Science Association, 2003.