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Rearing system with nurse cows and risk factors for Cryptosporidium infection in Organic dairy calves

Abstract : Rearing dairy calves with nurse cows has been increasingly adopted by French farmers especially in organic farming and is characterized by a fostering of two to four calves during the first month of life by an unmilked lactating cow. This type of rearing remains poorly documented regarding its impact on calf health, such as cryptosporidiosis. The objectives of our study were to describe practices related to rearing dairy calves with nurse cows and to evaluate the prevalence, intensity and risk factors for Cryptosporidium infection in calf neonates. Between January and September 2019, the rearing practices of calves were described in 20 organic French farms and faeces were sampled once from 611 animals aged between 5 and 21 days. Cryptosporidium oocyst shedding was identified by modified Ziehl-Neelsen technique and scored semi-quantitatively (score 0–4). The risk of excretion (score 0 versus 1–4) was analysed using multivariate logistic regression models. This cow-calf rearing system usually consisted of a first phase with the dam, followed by an optional phase of artificial milk feeding (calves being fed with whole milk of the farm) and a final phase of fostering by a nurse cow. Each nurse was suckled from one to five calves of close age with a fostering age of 8 days on average. The oocyst shedding prevalence was 40.2 % and similar to classically reared calves, but the intensity of shedding and the prevalence of diarrhoea appeared to be lower. The identified six risk factors for oocyst shedding were: born in the last two thirds of the birth order, born between January and July versus August and September, calf with its dam in the barn versus on pasture, having an artificial milk feeding phase versus being with the dam only, and contact between peer calves and notably the presence of an oocyst excretory calf fostered by the same nurse. These results emphasize the role of the environment for the direct and indirect contamination, particularly that related to the accumulation of oocysts from previous or peer calves facilitating the faecal-oral route of transmission. This highlights the crucial role of the premises used intensively during the winter and spring months with higher densities of calves in the barn compared to outdoor situations promoted by this rearing.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03166471
Contributor : Michel Leroux <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 11, 2021 - 11:58:12 AM
Last modification on : Friday, March 12, 2021 - 3:29:04 AM

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Caroline Constancis, Nadine Ravinet, Marion Bernard, Anne Lehébel, Nadine Brisseau, et al.. Rearing system with nurse cows and risk factors for Cryptosporidium infection in Organic dairy calves. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Elsevier, 2021, pp.105321. ⟨10.1016/j.prevetmed.2021.105321⟩. ⟨hal-03166471⟩

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