Effect of Sync on Immune Protection and Calf Performance
September 28, 2023
BY MARIAH GULL
Recently, I had the opportunity to try out some new technology. I had the chance to use the D2Dx™ unit from Nano Discovery. This unit measures immune parameters in the blood of the animal to assess the level of protection they might have against disease. I see potential in this unit providing information to help producers make informed treatment and nutrition management decisions.
NAHMS health data from the past 20+ years has shown little change in disease incidence in dairy calves. Improvements in animal health will come as we understand more about the immune system and how we can modulate it with nutritional factors and the influence of the microbiome.
Nano Discovery has shown relationships between D2Dx™ scores and total serum protein, incidence of transition cow disease, pregnancy rate, and daily milk yield. On the beef side of things, they have shown relationships between D2Dx™ score and average daily gain, as well as risk of bovine respiratory disease.
My purpose was to evaluate the D2Dx™ score, disease incidence, and average daily gain of calves given Sync, a calf product from MicroBasics. Additionally, to make the most of my time with the unit I also looked at the effect on D2Dx™ score for calves given Surveillance Calf, also a MicroBasics product, as they were moved from the hutch to a group pen.
- 50 calves were given Sync Paste shortly after birth.
- 60 calves in the control group
- All calves fed the same up until weaning.
- Blood collected at 88 days of age.
- Upon moving to the group pens calves were split into 2 groups based on their immunity score. 1 group received Surveillance Calf; the other group received no treatment.
- Blood collected again at 100 days of age (7 days after moving into the group pen.
- 50 calves were added to the trial divided into 2 groups to assess D2Dx™ score at 10 days of age.
Calves given 1 tube of Sync Paste soon after birth tended to have higher D2Dx™ immunity scores at 88 days of age (Figure 1).
Due to the small sample size, we did not see significant difference between disease incidence in these calves whether they were given Sync Paste or not. However, we did see something that may suggest an impact on average daily gain (Figure 2).
Originally, I started with a small trial because I was unsure of the cost and time investment involved in using the D2Dx™ unit. Because of the results I was getting I asked to extend the trial to include 49 more calves so that we could assess the effect of Sync at 10 days of age and add more data and power to the information I had already collected.
What I found was a trend suggesting that calves getting Sync shortly after birth had higher D2Dx™ immunity scores at day 10 (Figure 3).
After pooling the health data from both trial groups, my sample size was still too small to detect much difference in health events between the 2 groups. However, it did seem like that calves given Sync seemed to pull through a pneumonia event without any loss in ADG like those calves in the control group (P<0.05). More use of Sync on this farm and data analysis will help us determine if this difference is true.
Of most concern to us was the impact of Sync on ADG. We would hope that animals exhibiting more immune protection would pull through illness events much better and not see losses in ADG from those health events. When we expanded the group of calves from 110 to 149 we saw stronger power to the effect and a trend for those animals receiving Sync to gain more per day, than those that did not.
When we moved calves to group housing, we noticed that calves with lower immune scores in the hutch were more likely to increase after moving into the group pen. Calves with low immunity scores that received 30 ml. of Surveillance Calf before going to the group pen were more likely to have a larger increase in D2Dx™ immune score. Calves with already high immunity scores did not seem to benefit as much from the Surveillance. To sum it all up, without Surveillance upon moving to the group pens, immunity scores changed less and were more random (Figure 4).
Surveillance is typically fed in the milk to prevent illness, and I hope to look more at the effect of D2Dx™ immunity score during this time in a future study.
Use of the D2Dx™ immunity unit allows us to measure humoral immune components in the blood of the animal. Using the unit allowed me to learn about the effect on this score for calves given Sync and Surveillance Calf. Although still a small sample size, results suggested that calves given Sync within the first 24 hours of life tended to have higher immunity scores at day 10, day 88, and higher ADG when compared to calves that did not get Sync. Calves with low immunity scores at 88 days of age that were given Surveillance Calf had a greater increase in immune score at 100 days of age than calves with low immunity scores that did not get Surveillance Calf.
Calves with a higher immunity score should have better protection against disease and show lower losses in ADG than calves with lower scores. This information can help us to tailor our calf nutrition programs to account for components that will support gut health and immunity.
Having experienced what is involved in using the D2Dx™ immunity unit, I am looking forward to using it in my next trial!
Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.
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