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Phyllanthus emblica (Amla) Fruit Powder as a Supplement to Improve Preweaning Dairy Calves’ Health: Effect on Antioxidant Capacity, Immune Response, and Gut Bacterial Diversity

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Disease is the main reason for the use of antimicrobials in calf rearing, and antibiotics are commonly used to treat calves, including for unknown diseases. This leads to antimicrobial resistance, which is a challenge to the livestock industry and public health. Plant products containing high levels of phytochemicals may improve the immunity and resistance of calves against infections, thereby reducing the use of antimicrobials. This study aimed to investigate the effect of Phyllanthus emblica (Amla) fruit powder (PE) supplementation on antioxidant capacity and immune response of preweaning dairy calves. One hundred, 2-day-old, male Holstein calves were randomly assigned into five treatment groups receiving 0, 5, 10, 20, and 40 g/d PE supplementation. Antioxidant and immune indices and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were analyzed from serum samples, whereas 16S rRNA was analyzed from rumen fluid and fecal samples. PE supplementation, at 5 g/d, protected calves against oxidative stress and improved antioxidant enzymes and immune and anti-inflammatory responses, showing its immunity-enhancing and protective roles against infections. However, the antioxidant capacity and immune response decreased with increasing PE levels, illustrating the adverse effects of PE supplementation at higher doses. The analysis of ruminal and fecal bacterial community abundance detected higher proportions of Firmicutes at an early age, and a higher Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio at weaning, in calves supplemented with 5 g/d PE. This contributed to the development of the immune system in early life, and improved immune and anti-inflammatory responses at a later age. The overall results suggest that PE could be supplemented at 5 g/d for preweaning dairy calves to protect against oxidative stress and infections while maintaining normal gut microbial hemostasis.

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