Dairy calf survival is the focus of new research

    Press/Media: Press / Media

    Period31 Oct 2017

    Media coverage


    Media coverage

    • TitleWagga researchers are focusing on the survival of dairy calves
      Media name/outletThe Rural
      Media typePrint
      DescriptionMOLECULAR biology principals are being used to investigate immunity in dairy calves.

      It is estimated that eight to 12 per cent of young calves die within the first month. Reducing the mortality rates is worth millions to the dairy industry and research could also benefit beef cattle producers too. Charles Sturt University lecturer in ruminant health Dr Angel Abuelo is conducting a project through the Graham Centre aimed at discovering better outcomes from nutrition and management.

      “I’ll be investigating how the nutrition and metabolic status of a cow during late pregnancy influences the programing and development of the offspring’s immune system,” Dr Abuelo said. “A better understanding of the immune system during the early stages of life will help us to develop management practices that producers can implement during gestation to enhance disease resistance,” he said.

      In addition to saving the lives of dairy calves the research has potential to improve overall health of the animals and increase productivity. “Decreasing the incidence of disease by improving the immunity of a herd should also help producers to reduce the use of antibiotics,” Dr Abuelo said.

      “This is important in decreasing the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, which has a significant public health benefit.”

      Calves rely on the immune response they receive after drinking colostrum.

      However, the nutrition of the cow, before the calf is born is becoming a key area of focus. And for calves that do survive beyond the first month Dr Abuelo said any disease impact could have an affect later in life too.
      “It is important to take care of cows when they are young … this is going to impact how much milk they have when they are adults,” he said. Any disease in the first month is going to impact their life it is really important to take care of the cows when they are young. It is going to impact on how much milk they have when they are adults.

      “Within our area of research there is an opportunity to try and manipulate the nutrition of the dam to enhance the immune system of the calf,” Dr Abuelo said. While the current scientific work is centred around the dairy industry there was no reason why the data couldn’t carry over for better outcomes in the beef cattle.
      Producer/AuthorNikki Reynolds
      PersonsAngel Abuelo Sebio