Neonatal imprinting, otherwise known as metabolic programming, has been a subject of study in a variety of species for decades. At the heart of this line of inquiry is the question of whether health and growth can be optimized via particular methods of feeding and management during the first stages of life. Over the last 30 years, specific research into bovines and metabolic programming has indeed been plentiful. If early feeding and management techniques do indeed influence neonatal health, growth and eventual production, as ongoing research suggests, the question becomes what are the parameters necessary to achieve optimal calf health and growth that could then lead to optimal performance? In the literature review for her doctoral dissertation entitled, “Impact of prenatal and neonatal nutrition on metabolism and future performance in dairy heifers,” Dr Cristina Yunta gives an extensive overview of research related to the effects of colostrum feeding and upping the amount of milk fed on this question.
Dr Yunta examines not only the effects of IgG content in colostrum on neonatal calf health, but also other bioactive colostral factors and their influence on postnatal intestinal development, including calf glucose status and absorption. As she reviews milk quantity as it relates to metabolic programing, Dr Yunta points to the problems with traditionally restrictive pre-weaning milk feeding and to greater growth rates achieved through upping the level of milk fed. She also examines the link between higher eventual milk yield and higher plane of early life nutrition.
Indeed, early life calf feeding and management strategies are key in assisting with optimal growth, health and eventual performance.
To learn more about this research and the impact of metabolic programming in dairy calves, take a look at our Technical Note, or take a look at the original research.
Dr Yunta's dissertation can be found here