• Open Access

Passive Transfer of Colostral Immunoglobulins in Calves


379 E Campus Drive, Columbia, MO 65211; e-mail: weaverd@missouri.edu.


Passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins has long been accepted as imperative to optimal calf health. Many factors, including timing of colostrum ingestion, the method and volume of colostrum administration, the immunoglobulin concentration of the colostrum ingested, and the age of the dam have been implicated in affecting the optimization of absorption. The practice of colostrum pooling, the breed and presence of the dam, and the presence of respiratory acidosis in the calf also may affect passive transfer. Various tests have been reported to accurately measure passive transfer status in neonatal calves. The radial immunodif-fusion and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are the only tests that directly measure serum IgG concentration. All other available tests including serum total solids by refractometry, sodium sulfite turbidity test, zinc sulfate turbidity test, serum γ-glutamyl transferase activity, and whole blood glutaraldehyde gelation estimate serum IgG concentration based on concentration of total globulins or other proteins whose passive transfer is statistically associated with that of IgG. This paper presents a comprehensive review of the literature of passive transfer in calves including factors that affect passive transfer status, testing modalities, effects of failure of passive transfer on baseline mortality, consequences of failure of passive transfer, and some treatment options. Many previously accepted truisms regarding passive transfer in calves should be rejected based on the results of recent research.