Neonatal calves possess a very immature and naïve immune system and are reliant on the intake of maternal colostrum for passive transfer of immunoglobulins. Variation in colostrum management of beef and dairy calves is thought to affect early immune development. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine changes in gene expression and investigate molecular pathways involved in the immune-competence development of neonatal Holstein dairy calves and naturally suckled beef calves using next generation RNA-sequencing during the first week of life. Jugular whole blood samples were collected from Holstein (H) dairy calves (n = 8) artificially fed 5% B.W. colostrum, and from beef calves which were the progenies of Charolais-Limousin (CL; n = 7) and Limousin-Friesian beef suckler cows (LF; n = 7), for subsequent RNA isolation. In dairy calves, there was a surge in pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression possibly due to the stress of separation from the dam. LF calves exhibited early signs of humoral immune development with observed increases in the expression genes coding for Ig receptors, which was not evident in the other breeds by 7 days of age. Immune and health related DEGs identified as upregulated in beef calves are prospective contender genes for the classification of biomarkers for immune-competence development, and will contribute towards a greater understanding of the development of an immune response in neonatal calves.
Animal & Bioscience
Animal & Grassland Research & Innovation Programme