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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 2, p. 685-695
    Received: Aug 16, 2012
    Accepted: Sept 17, 2012
    Published: December 2, 2014

    3 Corresponding author(s):


LACTATION BIOLOGY SYMPOSIUM: Role of colostrum and colostrum components on glucose metabolism in neonatal calves12

  1. H. M. Hammon 3,
  2. J. Steinhoff-Wagner,
  3. J. Flor,
  4. U. Schönhusen and
  5. C. C. Metges
  1. Department of Nutritional Physiology “Oskar Kellner,” Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Dummerstorf, Germany


In neonatal calves, nutrient intake shifts from continuous glucose supply via the placenta to discontinuous colostrum and milk intake with lactose and fat as main energy sources. Calves are often born hypoglycemic and have to establish endogenous glucose production (eGP) and gluconeogenesis, because lactose intake by colostrum and milk does not meet glucose demands. Besides establishing a passive immunity, colostrum intake stimulates maturation and function of the neonatal gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Nutrients and nonnutritive factors, such as hormones and growth factors, which are present in high amounts in colostrum of first milking after parturition, affect intestinal growth and function and enhance the absorptive capacity of the GIT. Likely as a consequence of that, colostrum feeding improves the glucose status in neonatal calves by increasing glucose absorption, which results in elevated postprandial plasma glucose concentrations. Hepatic glycogen concentrations rise much greater when colostrum instead of a milk-based colostrum replacer (formula with same nutrient composition as colostrum but almost no biologically active substances, such as hormones and growth factors) is fed. In contrast, first-pass glucose uptake in the splanchnic tissue tended to be greater in calves fed formula. The greater plasma glucose rise and improved energy status in neonatal calves after colostrum intake lead to greater insulin secretion and accelerated stimulation of anabolic processes indicated by enhanced maturation of the postnatal somatotropic axis in neonatal calves. Hormones involved in stimulation of eGP, such as glucagon and cortisol, depend on neonatal diet, but their effects on eGP stimulation seem to be impaired. Although colostrum feeding affects systemic insulin, IGF-I, and leptin concentrations, evidence for systemic action of colostral insulin, IGF-I, and leptin in neonatal calves is weak. Studies so far indicate no absorption of insulin, IGF-I, and leptin from colostrum in neonatal calves, unlike in rodents where systemic effects of colostral leptin are demonstrated. Therefore, glucose availability in neonatal calves is promoted by perinatal maturation of eGP and colostrum intake. There may be long-lasting effects of an improved colostrum supply and glucose status on postnatal growth and development, and colostrum supply may contribute to neonatal programming of performance (milk and growth) in later life, but data proving this concept are missing.

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