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Open Access Research article

Refractometer assessment of colostral and serum IgG and milk total solids concentrations in dairy cattle

Munashe Chigerwe* and Jill V Hagey

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, University of California-Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, One Shields Avenue, Davis 95616, CA, USA

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BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:178  doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0178-7

Published: 15 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Estimation of the quantity of colostral IgG or serum IgG absorbed following ingestion of colostrum by calves is essential for monitoring the effectiveness of colostrum feeding practices on dairy farms. Milk total solids concentrations determination is a critical part of quality assessment of nonsaleable whole milk prior to feeding to calves. To date, on-farm methods to assess colostral IgG, serum IgG or milk total solids concentrations have been performed separately with various instruments. The objective of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic performance of a single electronic, hand-held refractometer for assessing colostral and serum IgG concentrations and milk total solids in dairy cattle. Colostral IgG, serum IgG and milk total solids concentrations were determined by the refractometer. Corresponding analysis of colostral and serum IgG concentrations were determined by radial immunodiffusion (RID) while milk total solids were determined by spectrophotometry. Sensitivity and specificity of the refractometer for colostrum and serum samples were calculated as determined by RID. Sensitivity and specificity of the refractometer for milk samples was calculated as determined by spectrophotometry.

Results

The sensitivity of the refractometer was 1 for colostral IgG, serum IgG and milk total solids determinations. Specificity of the refractometer was 0.66, 0.24 and 0 for colostral IgG, serum IgG and milk total solids determinations, respectively. The refractometer underestimated colostral IgG, serum IgG and milk total solids concentrations compared to the concentrations determined by RID or spectrophotometry.

Conclusions

The refractometer was an acceptable, rapid, convenient on-farm method for determining colostral IgG and milk total solids. The refractometer was not an acceptable method for determination of serum IgG concentrations as it severely underestimated the serum IgG concentrations.

Keywords:
Colostrum; Milk; Serum; Immunoglobulin; Milk total solids