Cattle colostrum programming for a healthy life
This ruminant animal science project explores the biological and molecular effects on a calf of receiving colostrum from its natural dam, from a different cow or not receiving colostrum at all.
A calf naturally receives colostrum from its mother very shortly after birth. This first meal is important, not only in a nutritional sense but also because colostrum passes immunoglobulins from the mother that transfer passive immunity to the calf.
However, the full effects of colostrum are not fully understood.
Miss-mothering or giving stored colostrum means a mismatch between the calf and colostrum which may have a lasting effect on health and performance, which may be mediated through epigenetic programming.
The effect of insufficient colostrum volume/quality intake is also poorly understood in beef cattle.
The project will identify:
- five calves that receive colostrum from their natural dams;
- five calves receiving colostrum from a surrogate mother; and
- five calves receiving colostrum replacer and the same three groups receiving insufficient colostrum volume/quality.
These calves will be followed during the first months of life to observe the lasting effects.
- Measurements will include growth rates and levels of acute phase proteins, level of total protein as indicator of passive transfer.
- Circulating microRNA will be measured to explore intracellular signalling.
- Possible impacts on epigenetic programming will be measured by comparing methylation of blood derived monocytes.
- Bioinformatic analysis will assess biological pathways affected by the miRNA signalling and changes in epigenetic programming.
Study production animal health
Management of domestic animals can have a large effect of the expression of genetics at the phenotypic level. It is now know that maternal diet can have a lasting effect on the performance of their progeny and even subsequent generations.
Professor John Williams is interested in this genotype by environmental interaction and how this affects the performance of animals, particularly in complex traits such as reproduction and disease response.