Journal of Dairy Science (Nov 2022)

Effects of prepartum supplementation of β-carotene on colostrum and calves

  • C.M. Prom,
  • M.A. Engstrom,
  • J.K. Drackley

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 105, no. 11
pp. 8839 – 8849


Read online

ABSTRACT: Little is known about transfer of dietary β-carotene into colostrum, its absorption by the calf, and its effects on retinol and α-tocopherol in the calf when the dam's dietary vitamin A is adequate. Our objective was to assess the effect of β-carotene supplementation during the close-up dry period on the colostrum and calf. The study was conducted on a large commercial dairy farm in Indiana during early summer of 2015. Ninety-four multiparous Holstein cows were blocked by calving data, parity, and previous production, and then randomly assigned to either control or β-carotene (BC) treatments. While locked in headgates each morning, each cow received a topdress of β-carotene (Rovimix, DSM Nutritional Products, 8 g/d; provided 800 mg β-carotene) or carrier from 21 d before expected calving until calving. Colostrum was collected within 2 h of parturition. Calf blood samples were obtained within 2 h of birth before receiving the dam's colostrum, at 24 h after birth, and at 7 d and 60 d of age. Blood serum was analyzed for β-carotene, retinol, α-tocopherol, and other metabolites and enzymes. Colostrum was analyzed for β-carotene, retinol, α-tocopherol, colorimetry profile, and milk components. Data were analyzed using mixed-effects models in SAS (SAS Institute Inc.). Calf serum β-carotene data were analyzed using the FREQ procedure. Colostrum β-carotene was higher for BC cows. Colostrum from BC cows had increased a* [measures red (positive) to green (negative)] and b* [measures yellow (positive) to blue (negative)] colorimeter values, indicating that β-carotene altered colostrum color toward red and yellow. Supplementation did not affect colostral or calf IgG concentrations. Colostrum color indices were correlated with IgG concentrations as well as concentrations of β-carotene, retinol, and α-tocopherol. Before receiving colostrum, the concentration of β-carotene in calf serum was below the detectable threshold of 0.05 μg/mL. At 24 h of age, the number of calves with detectable β-carotene concentrations increased, with more calves from BC cows (52.1%) having detectable concentrations than calves from cows in the control group (6.1%). No differences in concentrations of retinol or α-tocopherol were observed in calf serum. Supplementation of β-carotene to cows decreased activities of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and glutamate dehydrogenase in calf serum. In pregnant cows already receiving adequate vitamin A, supplementation of β-carotene increased concentration of β-carotene in colostrum, altered colostrum color, and increased serum β-carotene in calves at birth.