Plane of nutrition during the preweaning period but not the grower phase influences the neutrophil activity of Holstein calves

J Dairy Sci. 2013;96(11):7155-7166. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-6699. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Two experiments were conducted to determine the influence of plane of nutrition during (1) the pre- and immediate postweaning periods and (2) the grower phase on the performance and leukocyte responses of Holstein calves. In experiment 1, 39 (2 ± 1 d old) colostrum-fed heifer calves were randomly assigned to 2 planes of nutrition, a low (LPN; n = 19) and a high plane of nutrition (HPN; n = 20). Calves in the LPN treatment were offered 418 g/d of dry matter (DM) of a 20% crude protein (CP)/20% fat milk replacer, whereas calves in the HPN treatment were offered 747 and 1,010 g/d of DM of a 28% CP/20% fat milk replacer during wk 1 and wk 2 to 6, respectively. Calves were offered ad libitum access to a calf starter until the end of the study. Peripheral blood samples were collected on d 3, 10, 21, 45, 47, 53, and 91 for many ex vivo leukocyte responses and biochemical analyses. A nutrition × time interaction was present for average daily gain and feed efficiency (feed:gain ratio). A nutrition × time interaction existed for plasma glucose concentration. Neutrophil L-selectin expression was greater in calves fed the LPN than HPN on d 3 and 21. The percentage of neutrophils producing an oxidative burst (OB) when cocultured with Escherichia coli tended to be greater and was greater in calves fed the LPN than HPN on d 10 and 21, respectively. In addition, neutrophils from calves fed the LPN had greater OB intensity throughout the neonatal period (0 to 21 d). However, plasma haptoglobin was not different between the 2 planes of nutrition throughout the study. In experiment 2, 50 heifer calves that were all previously fed a HPN similar to that described for experiment 1 were randomly assigned to 2 planes of nutrition (HPN and LPN) during the grower phase (5 pens/treatment; 5 calves/pen). Calves fed the HPN during the grower phase were fed 4.1 kg of concentrate DM (pellets; 22.4% CP, DM basis) per head per day, whereas calves on the LPN during the grower phase were fed 1.6 kg of DM of the same concentrate per head per day. All calves were fed alfalfa hay (16.2% CP; DM basis) ad libitum. Overall, average daily gain was greater in HPN calves than LPN calves. No differences were noticed for concentrations of plasma urea nitrogen, glucose, neutrophil L-selectin expression, percentage of neutrophils producing OB, and plasma haptoglobin concentration between the 2 planes of nutrition. In summary, intake and performance were improved in calves fed the HPN than calves fed the LPN in both experiments. The neutrophil responses of calves fed an LPN were more active during the preweaning period than calves fed an HPN; however, this response was not observed during the immediate postweaning period or the grower phase.

Keywords: calf; health; immune; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / growth & development*
  • Cattle / immunology*
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Haptoglobins / analysis
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Respiratory Burst
  • Weaning


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Haptoglobins