Short communication: Comparative estimation of colostrum quality by Brix refractometry in bovine, caprine, and ovine colostrum.

Kessler, E. C.; Bruckmaier, R. M.; Gross, J. J. (2021). Short communication: Comparative estimation of colostrum quality by Brix refractometry in bovine, caprine, and ovine colostrum. Journal of dairy science, 104(2), pp. 2438-2444. American Dairy Science Association 10.3168/jds.2020-19020

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Newborn ungulates depend on the timely supply of colostrum containing sufficient immunoglobulins to obtain passive immunity against disease. Brix refractometry enables a rapid on-farm estimation of colostrum quality and has been intensively studied in bovines. However, the suitability of Brix refractometers for assessing colostrum quality in goats and ewes has been scarcely evaluated. The present study compared bovine, caprine, and ovine colostrum quality estimation using an optical Brix refractometer. In addition, between-species variations in the relationships between Brix values and colostrum constituents (IgG, fat, protein, and lactose) and the accuracy of Brix refractometry at different cutoff values were evaluated by a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. We measured the Brix value and contents of IgG, fat, protein, and lactose in 324 colostrum samples (108 cows, 116 does, and 100 ewes). Thresholds for classification of good colostrum quality (as determined by ELISA) were set at 50 mg IgG/mL in cows and 20 mg/mL in does and ewes. Bovine colostrum showed the greatest IgG concentrations compared with caprine and ovine colostrum. Fat and protein content was higher in sheep colostrum compared with the other species, whereas the highest lactose concentrations were detected in goat colostrum. Brix values ranged from 11.4 to 34.6% (22.1 ± 4.2%; mean ± standard deviation), 15.4 to 40.0% (28.5 ± 6.8%), and 8.8 to 39.8% (21.6 ± 5.3%) in bovine, ovine, and caprine colostrum, respectively. In all 3 species, Brix was highly correlated with IgG and protein concentrations (cows, r = 0.83 and 0.98; goats, r = 0.83 and 0.89; sheep, r = 0.75 and 0.87). Optimal cutoff points for greatest accuracy of Brix measurements were 19.3% Brix in cows [with 87.1% sensitivity (Se) and 100% specificity (Sp)], 20.7% Brix in does (with 53.5% Se and 100% Sp), and 26.5% Brix in ewes (with 75% Se and 91.3% Sp). In conclusion, Brix refractometry is an acceptable tool for on-farm estimations of colostrum quality in does and ewes despite distinct between-species variations in colostrum composition.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Physiology

UniBE Contributor:

Bruckmaier, Rupert and Gross, Josef Johann


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)




American Dairy Science Association




Josef Johann Gross

Date Deposited:

01 Feb 2021 16:20

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2021 14:34

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Brix accuracy colostrum immunoglobulin G refractometer




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