Exploring the microbial composition of Holstein Friesian and Belgian Blue colostrum in relation to the transfer of passive immunity

Ilke Van Hese, Karen Goossens, Bart Ampe, Annelies Haegeman, Geert Opsomer

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan tijdschriftA1: Web of Science-artikelpeer review


For centuries, multicellular organisms have lived in symbiosis with microorganisms. The interaction with microorganisms has been shown to be very beneficial for humans and animals. During a natural birth, the initial inoculation with bacteria occurs when the neonate passes through the birth canal. Colostrum and milk intake are associated with the acquisition of a healthy gut flora. However, little is known about the microbial composition of bovine colostrum and the possible beneficial effects for the neonatal calf. In this prospective cohort study, the microbial composition of first-milking colostrum was analyzed in 62 Holstein Friesian (HF) and 46 Belgian Blue (BB) cows by performing amplicon sequencing of the bacterial V3–V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Calves received, 3 times, 2 L of their dam's colostrum within 24 h after birth. Associations between colostral microbial composition and its IgG concentration, as well as each calf's serum IgG levels, were analyzed. Colostrum samples were dominated by the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria. The 10 most abundant genera in the complete data set were Acinetobacter (16.2%), Pseudomonas (15.1%), a genus belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family (4.9%), Lactococcus (4.0%), Chryseobacterium (3.9%), Staphylococcus (3.6%), Proteus (1.9%), Streptococcus (1.8%), Enterococcus (1.7%), and Enhydrobacter (1.5%). The remaining genera (other than these top 10) accounted for 36.5% of the counts, and another 8.7% were unidentified. Bacterial diversity differed significantly between HF and BB samples. Within each breed, several genera were found to be differentially abundant between colostrum of different quality. Moreover, in HF, the bacterial composition of colostrum leading to low serum IgG levels in the calf differed from that of colostrum leading to high serum IgG levels. Results of the present study indicate that the microbes present in colostrum are associated with transfer of passive immunity in neonatal calves.
Oorspronkelijke taalEngels
TijdschriftJournal of Dairy Science
Pagina's (van-tot)7623-7641
Aantal pagina’s19
PublicatiestatusGepubliceerd - sep.-2022


  • 16S amplicon sequencing
  • bovine colostrum
  • microbial composition
  • transfer of passive immunity


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