Interaction of cattle health/immunity and nutrition

M. L. Galyean, L. J. Perino, G. C. Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


The usual means of assessing the health of newly received beef cattle susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) are subjective, typically involving visual evaluation aided by minimal clinical measurements. Recent evidence based on the occurrence of pneumonic lung lesions at slaughter indicates a need for more accurate methods of diagnosing BRD. Inadequate passive immune transfer at birth may be an important risk factor in susceptibility to BRD, suggesting the need for management to improve passive transfer success rates. Preweaning management and vaccination practices offer opportunities for beef cattle producers to improve the immune status of newly weaned calves and decrease postweaning BRD. Feeding diets with higher levels of concentrate typically improves performance by newly weaned or received cattle, as does feeding diets supplemented with protein; however, limited data suggest that increasing concentrate and protein in receiving diets increases the rate and severity of subjectively determined BRD morbidity. Research with receiving diet concentrate/protein level relative to humoral and cell-mediated immune function coupled with indicators of health and performance is needed. Supplemental B vitamins are sometimes useful in receiving diets, but the effects have been variable, presumably reflecting differences in stress and associated feed intake responses. Vitamin E added to receiving diets to supply ≥ 400 IU/animal daily seems beneficial for increasing gain and decreasing BRD morbidity; however, further dose titration experiments are needed. Supplemental Zn, Cu, Se, and Cr can alter immune function of newly received calves, and some field trials have shown decreases in BRD morbidity rate with supplementation; however, several experiments have shown no performance or health/immune benefits from supplementation of these trace minerals. Formulation of receiving diets should take into account decreased feed intake by highly stressed, newly received beef cattle and known nutrient deficiencies, but fortification of such diets with trace minerals beyond the levels needed to compensate for these effects is difficult to justify from present data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1134
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999


  • Beef Cattle
  • Energy
  • Immunity
  • Minerals
  • Protein
  • Vitamins


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