Improving immune status in neonates is crucial to health and production. Gut active carbohydrates (GAC) have been associated with increasing immunoglobin levels and immonucompetence development in mammals. The objective of the following studies was to evaluate whether GAC (mannan-oligosaccharides) applied orally to progeny immediately following parturition, improved blood plasma immunoglobulin (Ig) type G concentrations in piglets and calves. Three trials were conducted comparing control groups with those receiving GAC orally. The first two trials used piglets that were monitored for blood IgG at 2 days of age and for changes in body weight (BW), and the third trial monitored calf IgG from birth to 21 days of age. Piglets in the experimental group received 0.75 g GAC in 10 ml saline at birth and 24 h of age. The calf trial compared the control group against calves that received 22.5 g GAC mixed into 4.5 l of colostrum (to give 5 g/l) in the first 24 h after parturition. Blood serum samples were taken at 2 days post partum in piglets, and at several time points from 6 h to 21 days of age in calves, and were analysed for IgG levels by radial immunodiffusion. In the first piglet trial, significantly higher levels (32%) of IgG were observed for piglets fed GAC (P < 0.001), and in the second, IgG concentration was elevated by 23% (P < 0.01) and BW increased by 9% (P = 0.023) with GAC supplementation. Significant improvements for calves were recorded at all time points in those fed GAC (P < 0.05), with an increase in serum IgG observed after the first day, which was maintained throughout the sampling period, resulting in a difference of 39% at the end of the trial (21 d). These findings form a basis for further studies, which are required to investigate possible modes of action involved in enhancing blood immunoglobulin concentrations in young animals, and the longer-term effects this may have on the development of the immune response.
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