On-farm selection of adult fecal microbiome for transplantation into neonatal dairy calves as an enhancer for growth and development.

Document Type


Publication Date



American Dairy Science Association


Journal of Dairy Science




Suppl. 2






calves, growth, microbiota


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of early life fecal microbial transplantation (FMT) from adult healthy donors into neonatal dairy calves on growth and health performance as well as effects on inflammation and metabolism. The selection of the adult donor was based on health and production records at the Dairy Research and Training Facility (DRTF) at South Dakota State University as well as fecal samples testing negative for Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium. The final selected donor from the DRTF farm was a fifth lactation Holstein dairy cow, among the highest milk yield (~11,090 kg/lactation) of the herd, no treatment records for any disease or metabolic disorder, and negative for all pathogens mentioned above. Sixteen healthy newborn Holstein calves (n = 8/trt) housed in individual hutches were used in a randomized complete block design from birth to 7 wk of age. Calves were fed 2.8 L/d of antibiotic-free milk replacer 2 × /d during wk 1 to 5, 1 × /d in wk 6, and weaned at d 42. 230 J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 101, Suppl. 2 Antibiotic-free starter pellets and water were fed ad libitum. Treatments were a baseline nutritional program (CON) or calves subjected to 1 × /d inoculations with 25 g of fecal donor material (FMT) mixed in the milk replacer from 8 to 12 d of age. Individual intakes of milk and pellets were measured daily. Fecal and respiratory scores were recorded daily. Body weight (BW) and withers height (WH) were recorded weekly. Blood samples were collected weekly for metabolic and inflammatory profiling during the experiment. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS. There was a trend (P = 0.09) for greater BW (50.8 vs 52.7 kg ± 0.7) in FMT calves. Similarly, there was a trend for greater WH (P = 0.13) in FMT (82.6 vs 83.8 kg ± 0.49) calves. Starter intake was not affected (P = 0.86). Fecal scores were not affected (P = 0.23) by FMT inoculation. Although mild improvements were observed in BW and WH by FMT inoculation, these are suggestive that neonatal dairy calves may benefit from this approach to enhance gut health and immunity, which might be explained by biomarkers profiling in blood.