Research from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation in Wagga Wagga has identified opportunities to improve the health and productivity of Australian dairy calves.
The research findings are based on a survey of more than 100 dairy farmers and the analysis of colostrum, blood and faecal samples collected from 23 farms.
Research leader Angel Abuelo — now based at Michigan State University — said colostrum management was a key factor that could be improved in Australian dairy production systems.
‘‘Colostrum is the milky fluid produced by cows soon after giving birth and it plays a key role in developing a newborn calf’s immune system,’’ Dr Abuelo said.
‘‘Less than 20 per cent of colostrum samples collected in this study met the standards of immunoglobulin content and microbiological quality.
‘‘This suggests that a large number of calves are at risk of receiving poor-quality colostrum, making them more susceptible to illness.’’
The research also identified a need for better calf feeding hygiene to prevent the spread of disease and more judicious use of anti-microbials to treat neonatal calf diarrhoea.
Dr Abuelo said there was also scope for veterinarians to become more involved in calf health programs in Australian dairy farms.
‘‘More research is also needed to investigate the factors that influence a farmer’s decision to adopt these practices,’’ Dr Abuelo said.
The research, An investigation of dairy calf management practices, colostrum quality, failure of transfer of passive immunity, and occurrence of enteropathogens among Australian dairy farms by Dr Abuelo, NSW DPI dairy development officer Peter Havrlant, Graham Centre acting director Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover and Charles Sturt University honours student Natalie Wood is published in the Journal of Dairy Science.