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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.

Key methodology:

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.
Professor John Williams


Professor John Williams

Co-supervisors: Associate Professor Kiro Petrovski | Professor Wayne Pitchford | Professor Stephen Hiendleder

Research area: Production animal health; ruminant science

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Animal Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Animal science, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science, Honours projects - John Williams, Honours projects - Kiro Petrovski, Honours projects - Wayne Pitchford, Honours projects - Stefan Hiendleder, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Production animal health, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science: Other

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