Indoor calving a driver of low vitamin D levels in Irish calves
New research from Teagasc Grange has highlighted the dangers of Vitamin D deficiency among young calves in Ireland.
Reporting on the research Kieran Meade of Teagasc Grange said the level of calf mortality in Ireland remains high, and therefore, serious research focus has been applied to optimise the nutritional strategies for calves, particularly those raised under artificial systems.
"Optimal immunity requires fuel, and therefore it is logical that calves suffering from malnutrition are more at risk of acquiring multiple infectious and metabolic diseases.
"Interesting research is now showing that programming of the immune system begins pre birth and continues during the early neonatal period, and it is increasingly realised that nutritional or disease insults during this time could have a lifelong impact.
"During this period, as protection from maternal (colostral) antibodies begins to wane, the calf is susceptible to disease until protection via vaccination or natural immunity develops," he said.
According to Meade, Vitamin D is a nutrient that bridges the nutritional and immunological systems by providing the metabolic requirements for growth, as well as the activation and regulation of an immune response.
The two major forms of vitamin D are plant-based dietary vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and meat-based and ultraviolet B (sun)-induced vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
While the role of the active forms of vitamin D in bone and mineral health has been well established, it is only recently that the diverse mechanisms by which vitamin D influences the immune system are being appreciated.