Effects of glycerol-esters of saturated short- and medium chain fatty acids on immune, health and growth variables in veal calves

Christien Masmeijer, Tina Rogge, Katharina van Leenen, Lieze De Cremer, Piet Deprez, Eric Cox, Bert Devriendt, Bart Pardon
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 2020, 178: 104983
In veal and dairy beef production systems, Holstein bull calves experience many stressors and excessive pathogen exposure, necessitating the use of antimicrobials for welfare and production reasons. The aim of this randomized clinical trial was to explore the effects of esterified fatty acids used as feed supplement on health, production and immune variables in veal calves. Different glycerol-esters of fatty acids were used: short chain fatty acid (SCFA)-based glycerol-mono- (C4) and tributyrate (C4), and medium chain fatty acid (MCFA)-based glycerol-monocaprylate/monocaprinate (C8/C10) and glycerol-monolaurate (C12) in two different doses. One hundred sixty eight calves (2-to 4-week-old) were randomly assigned to 6 treatment groups; tributyrate (0.5 g/animal/day); monobutyrate (1 g/animal/day); low C8/C10 (7 g/animal/day) and high C8/C10 (10 g/animal/day); low C12 (4 g/animal/day) and high C12 (6 g/animal/day) and a control group (CON). Duration of in-feed supplementation was 14 weeks. Average daily gain, bodyweight at 14 weeks on feed and slaughter weight were determined. Health monitoring consisted of clinical signs and repeated thoracic ultrasonography. After 4, 8 and 12 weeks of supplementation, the function of neutrophils, monocytes and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was evaluated ex vivo by measuring reactive oxygen species (ROS) production by neutrophils and monocytes, proliferation of and cytokine release by PBMCs. Study power was based upon ROS production by neutrophils and treatment groups were too limited to detect significant differences in growth and health variables. Glycerol-ester supplementation resulted in different effects on immune cell function, depending on the type and dose of the glycerol-ester as well as duration of supplementation. Our main findings were increased secretion of interleukin IL-17A by PBMCs at 4 weeks of feed supplementation in high C8/C10 (P< 0.01), low C12 (P < 0.01) and monobutyrate (P< 0.01) groups, combined with decreased ROS production in neutrophils (P < 0.001) and monocytes (P < 0.05) in the high C8/C10 and monocytes (P < 0.05) in low C12 groups compared to the control animals. After 12 weeks on feed, ROS production by neutrophils (P < 0.001) and monocytes (P < 0.01) of monobutyrate and by monocytes (P < 0.01) of tributyrate groups was decreased compared to control calves. In summary, supplementation of glycerol-esters of MCFAs resulted in immune-modulatory effects, which did not manifest themselves in improved health and growth of calves under the conditions and limitations of this study. Especially doses of high C8/C10 and low C12 show potential to promote an early, robust pro-inflammatory response with diminished ROS production. This might be beneficial for clearance of pathogens in young calves in periods of stress and high pathogen load.

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