Animal Science and Technology
Animal and Veterinary Science
transport; oxidative stress; beef cattle; MDA; maternal programming
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In recent years, beef cattle operations such as farms and ranches in the U.S. have surpassed 900,000 and have been steadily increasing. With this rise in the beef industry, comes a greater concern for calf health since it has huge impacts on production and viability. There are multiple different factors that can affect calf health ranging from the intrauterine environment to conditions early on post parturition. An improper maternal environment during pregnancy can impact fetal growth because it can decrease the amount of nutrients reaching the calf. This can lead to low birth weights and undeveloped organ systems. Additionally, if maternal milk production is high, there can be competition between energy sources for lactation and fetal and placental growth. Another aspect that can negatively affect calf health is transportation. This is an important issue because most bull calves are transported within their first few days of life. Transportation can lead to stress due to multiple factors such as crowding and food and water deprivation. These external conditions lead to an immunological response in calves called oxidative stress, which can damage biological macromolecules and decrease immune function causing disease and possible mortality. There are various oxidative stress biomarkers in the blood that can be measured to observe the animal’s stress response. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) levels are two of them. These biomarkers are indicative of an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the cell. High concentrations can lead to negative effects such as modifications in genes and how they are expressed, liver necrosis, and a decrease in enzyme activity. For my project, I wrote a literature review paper that researches calf health and immunity and all of the different factors that can affect it such as transport, maternal programming, and nutrition. Additionally, I was able to obtain some data on how transport affects oxidative stress biomarkers in bull calves through a trial MDA assay. With the beef industry’s growth, farmers cannot afford these conditions that lead to high rates of infection and disease, potentially causing death. Therefore, the calves' health needs to be prioritized to avoid these negative effects on their immune systems and for their general well being.