Lactoferrin for the Treatment of Calf Diarrhea

The goal of the project is to develop an effective non-antimicrobial  treatment for neonatal calf diarrhea able to be used by both conventional and organic dairy calf raisers.  Specifically, our objectives are to 1) Determine if oral administration of lactoferrin is effective in reducing the concentration of E. coli in the feces of calves; 2) Determine if administration of lactoferrin in oral rehydration solutions as a treatment for calf diarrhea results in reduced mortality or fewer
antimicrobial treatments compared to oral rehydration solutions alone.

Calf diarrhea is the most common cause of mortality in pre-weaned dairy calves, and has a major impact on the profitability of dairy producers. Lactoferrin is natural protein found in bovine colostrum, and has shown promise for use as an alternative to antimicrobials for diarrheal diseases.  Lactoferrin exhibits antibacterial properties by binding iron and preventing enteric bacteria from utilizing this essential nutrient, and thus may mitigate the intestinal overgrowth
of E. coli in diarrheic calves, and reduce the number of cases that progress and require antimicrobial therapy.

The study will be conducted in two phases. In the first phase, healthy, privately owned Holstein dairy calves will be administered 2g of lactoferrin mixed with an oral rehydration solution. The concentration of Escherichia coli will be measured for 2 days prior and 3 days subsequent to treatment administration. Changes in the concentration of E. coli will be compared in treatment and control groups over time. The second phase of the study is a randomized field trial, where commercial calf producers will be provided with packets of electrolytes with and without lactoferrin for use in the on-farm treatment of routine cases of calf diarrhea. The effect on mortality and subsequent antimicrobial treatments on these will be recorded and compared between groups.

If you have any questions regarding the research, please contact:
Dr. Greg Habing
Assistant Professor
Veterinary Preventive Medicine
1920 Coffey Rd
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 292-7205