Effects of replacement of native fat in colostrum and milk with coconut oil on fat-soluble vitamins in serum and immune function in calves

J Dairy Sci. 1997 Oct;80(10):2380-90. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(97)76189-7.


Fat-soluble vitamins and their metabolites modulate immune function in a variety of animal species. The objective of the present study was to determine the role of fat-soluble vitamins in colostrum and milk in the development of specific aspects of immune function in the calf during the 1st wk postpartum. During this period, control calves (n = 6) were fed normal colostrum and milk, and calves in the treatment group (n = 6) were fed skimmed colostrum and skimmed milk supplemented with coconut oil. Treated calves did not experience the progressive increase in concentrations of retinol, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, or retinoic acids in serum that was observed in control calves. Acquisition of passive immunity, which is indicated by concentrations of immunoglobulin G1 in serum, was unaffected by treatment. Composition and functional capacities of populations of blood mononuclear leukocytes that were collected from birth to 7 d postpartum were also unaffected by treatment. Major changes in the function and composition of mononuclear leukocyte populations from all calves occurred during the experimental period and were unrelated to the concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins in serum. Populations of blood mononuclear leukocytes from calves were functionally hyporesponsive and compositionally different from populations of blood mononuclear leukocytes from adult nongravid cows. These differences likely reflected the immaturity of the immune system of the neonatal calf and may contribute to the increased susceptibility of the calf to infectious disease.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology
  • Calcitriol / blood
  • Cattle / blood
  • Cattle / immunology
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Coconut Oil
  • Colostrum*
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Immunity*
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / metabolism
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Milk*
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage
  • Tretinoin / blood
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin E / blood
  • Vitamins / blood*
  • beta Carotene / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Plant Oils
  • Vitamins
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Tretinoin
  • Interferon-gamma
  • DNA
  • Calcitriol
  • Coconut Oil