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Assessment of different methods to estimate bovine colostrum quality on farm

Authors: Meyer L, Iwersen M, Drillich M, Bartens M-C, Rychli K, Arnholdt T, Klein-Jöbstl D
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 64, Issue 5, pp 263-267, Sep 2016
Publisher: Taylor and Francis


AIMS: To evaluate two different hydrometers and an optical and a digital Brix refractometer for the assessment of bovine colostrum quality, in terms of accuracy and precision compared with the measurement of IgG concentrations using radial immunodiffusion (RID), and to evaluate the reliability and repeatability of the Brix refractometers.

METHODS: To determine reliability and repeatability, 145 colostrum samples were tested by two independent observers twice, using the optical and digital Brix refractometers. A further 193 colostrum samples from Holstein cows were collected on one commercial dairy farm at first milking and tested with two hydrometers and an optical and digital Brix refractometer. An aliquot of each sample was frozen for RID measurement of IgG concentrations and samples were classified as poor (≤50 g IgG/L) or good (>50 g IgG/L) quality colostrum. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were used to determine inter- and intra-observer reliability and repeatability. Optimised cut-off values for the four devices were determined using receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis with the RID results as the reference. Using these cut-offs, sensitivities and specificities for determining good quality colostrum were calculated.

RESULTS: The ICC for inter-observer reliability was 0.98 for the optical Brix refractometer, and for intra-observer repeatability was 0.97 and 0.98 for the optical and the digital Brix refractometers, respectively. For the 193 colostrum samples, 67 (34.7%) had concentrations of IgG ≤50 g/L determined by RID. Optimised cut-off values evaluated by ROC analysis were higher for all devices compared with manufacturer reference or previously published values. Using these values, the sensitivities for the two hydrometers, and the optical and the digital Brix refractometers were 0.73, 0.71, 0.56 and 0.79, respectively; specificities were 0.72, 0.61, 0.90 and 0.69, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The Brix refractometers provided the most accurate assessment of colostrum quality of the devices evaluated, and demonstrated excellent precision in terms of repeatability. To provide optimal health for newborn calves, a sufficient intake of good quality colostrum is essential. The Brix refractometers provide rapid, convenient tools for classification of colostrum quality.

KEY WORDS: Colostrum quality, hydrometer, brix refractometer, validation, accuracy
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