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The Benefits of Echinacea Purpurea Extract for Calves' Immunity and Health


Echinacea purpurea (EP) is a well-known herb that has been found to have immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies have shown that supplementing calves with EP extract can potentially enhance their immunity, health, and overall performance. This article aims to explore the effects of EP supplementation on blood immunity markers, health, intake, and growth in calves.

Study Design

A study was conducted using male Holstein calves, totaling 240 individuals. These calves were sourced from local dairy farms or auctions and were between 5 and 14 days old upon arrival at a rearing facility. They were housed individually in pens for 56 days before being grouped together for the remaining 21 days of the trial. Throughout the study, the calves received milk replacer twice a day, along with ad libitum access to water and starter feed. The calves were divided into three treatment groups:

  1. Control group (n = 80)

  2. EP extract supplementation from day 14 to day 28 (n = 80)

  3. EP extract supplementation from day 1 to day 56 (n = 80)

The EP extract, in the form of dried powder, was mixed into the liquid milk replacer for the respective treatment groups.

Blood Immunity Marker Profile

Blood samples were collected from a subset of calves on days 1, 14, 28, and 57 of the study. These samples were used to assess various blood immunity markers, including serum total protein, haptoglobin, white blood cell count, and cytokines. The researchers found that EP supplementation was associated with several positive effects on these markers. Specifically, calves receiving EP extract had lower haptoglobin levels and segmented neutrophil counts. Additionally, the segmented neutrophil per lymphocyte ratio was reduced, indicating a decrease in inflammation. EP supplementation also led to higher lymphocyte counts and a slightly elevated rectal temperature on day 28, suggesting improved immune response.

Health and Growth

The health of the calves was closely monitored throughout the study. They were scored twice a day for fecal and respiratory conditions until day 28 and day 77, respectively. EP supplementation showed promising results in terms of health improvement. Calves receiving EP extract had lower respiratory scores, indicating a reduced risk of respiratory diseases, especially in those sourced from auctions. However, no significant effects were observed in terms of fecal scores or the risk of diarrhea.

In terms of growth, the EP supplementation had mixed outcomes. Calves with higher arrival body weight and receiving EP extract throughout the entire milk feeding period (day 1 to day 56) exhibited greater post-weaning weekly body weight. However, EP supplementation did not have a significant impact on average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, or overall mortality risk.

Discussion and Conclusion

The findings of this study suggest that supplementing calves with Echinacea purpurea extract can positively influence their immune system and overall health. The observed reduction in haptoglobin levels and segmented neutrophil counts indicates a decrease in inflammation, while the increase in lymphocyte counts and rectal temperature on day 28 suggests improved immune response. EP supplementation also demonstrated a beneficial effect on respiratory health, especially in calves from auctions.

However, the study did not show consistent improvements in growth parameters, feed intake, or the risk of bovine respiratory disease. It is important to note that the benefits of EP supplementation were more pronounced when administered throughout the entire milk feeding period.

In conclusion, Echinacea purpurea extract has the potential to enhance the immunity and health of calves. Further research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and duration of supplementation to maximize the benefits. This natural and immunomodulatory approach could be a valuable addition to the management practices in calf rearing, promoting overall well-being and performance.

Additional Information

  • It is recommended to consult with a veterinarian or animal health specialist before implementing EP supplementation in calf rearing programs.

  • EP extract can be administered in various forms, such as dried powder or liquid, and can be mixed into milk replacer or other feed sources.

  • While this study focused on Holstein calves, further research is needed to investigate the effects of EP supplementation on other breeds and age groups of calves.

  • EP supplementation should be combined with proper nutrition, hygiene, and vaccination protocols to ensure optimal calf health and performance.


  1. Study reference 1

  2. Study reference 2

  3. Synapse: Global Drug Intelligence Database


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