Risk factors for poor colostrum quality and failure of passive transfer in Scottish dairy calves

Alexandra Haggerty, Colin Mason, Kathryn Ellis, Katharine Denholm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Failure of passive transfer (FPT) has health, welfare and economic implications for calves. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentration of 370 dairy calf serum samples from 38 Scottish dairy farms was measured via radial immunodiffusion (RID) to determine FPT prevalence. IgG concentration, total bacteria count (TBC) and total coliform count (TCC) of 252 colostrum samples were also measured. A questionnaire was completed at farm enrollment to investigate risk factors for FPT and poor colostrum quality at farm-level. Multivariable mixed effect logistic and linear regressions were carried out to determine significant risk factors for FPT and colostrum quality. Prevalence of FPT at calf level was determined to be 14.05%. Of 252 colostrum samples, 111 (44.05%) failed to meet Brix thresholds for colostrum quality. Of these 28 and 38 samples also exceeded TBC and TCC thresholds, respectively. Increased time between parturition and colostrum harvesting was numerically (non-significantly) associated with a colostrum Brix result <22%, and increased time spent in a bucket prior to feeding or storing was significantly associated with high TBC (≥100 000 cfu/ml and also ≥10 000 cfu/ml). High TBC values in colostrum were significantly associated with lower serum IgG concentrations. This study highlights associations between colostrum quality and FPT in dairy calves as well as potential risk factors for reduced colostrum quality; recommending some simple steps producers can take to maximise colostrum quality on farm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Dairy Research
Issue number3
Early online date16 Aug 2021
Publication statusFirst published - 16 Aug 2021


  • Colostrum
  • dairy calves
  • FPT
  • risk factors
  • Animals, Newborn/immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G/blood
  • Parturition
  • Farms/statistics & numerical data
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired/immunology
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland
  • Bacterial Load/veterinary
  • Pregnancy
  • Colostrum/immunology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Dairying
  • Female


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