Find out how good colostrum management can set your calves up, with lifetime benefits.
Good colostrum management is the NUMBER ONE factor in your calves' health. This is your best opportunity to prevent the nightmare that is a shed of scouring or sick calves, and the amount of work and devotion that goes into their care.
Its benefits extend well beyond the first week of life, bringing reduced risk of pre- and post-weaning mortality, scours and disease, improved weight gain, and even greater milk production and reproduction in adult dairy cattle.
Why is colostrum so important?
A calf is born without any immunoglobulins and therefore without immunity to fight bacteria or viruses. This is because of the structure of the bovine placenta, which separates maternal and foetal blood supplies, meaning that the mother is not able to give her calf any immunity through shared blood.
The calf, therefore, depends entirely on the absorption of these immunoglobulins in colostrum to gain immunity and protection against infections, until she develops her own immunity at 3-4 weeks of age.
The absorption of immunoglobulins is only possible for a short period of time after the calf is born, while the gut allows them across its membrane. Absorption is greatest within the first 2 hours of life and gradually decreases until ceasing completely by 24 hours when the gut wall ‘closes’.
As such, calves ideally need to receive their colostrum in the first 6 hours and definitely in the first 12 hours. This is why twice daily pick up of calves is so important and beneficial.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the thick golden lactation from a cow in the days after calving. As well as immunoglobulins, it also contains high levels of nutrients and growth factors.
If you have spare colostrum, it is a great idea to keep feeding it to your young calves, even after they can’t absorb the immunoglobulins, as they can still benefit from lots of other good factors in it. It can also bind bacteria in the gut to reduce ingested bacterial loads.
How does it compare to regular milk?
60x better for IgG (immunoglobulin for immunity)
8x better for vitamins
4x better for protein content
2x better for solids %
2x better for fat %
What are the golden rules for gold colostrum?
Separate first collection (gold) colostrum and prioritise this for your newborn calves;
Test this colostrum with a Brix refractometer and use colostrum that is 22% or higher;
Not all first colostrum is made equal! Some cows produce much better quality colostrum than others and that is why we use the Brix to test it.
The more colostrum a newborn is given, the more antibodies/immunoglobulins it can absorb;
Feed 15% of bodyweight (around 4-6L) within the first 12 hours, split into two feeds;
Calves must receive colostrum within 6-12 hours of birth!
If the calf is not suckling properly, then tube them to ensure they get this colostrum.
Contaminated colostrum reduces the amount of antibodies left for the calf to absorb;
Keep your colostrum storage and feeders clean (clean between every feed);
Ensure collection buckets in the dairy have lids on them to avoid getting cow poo in them at the platform;
Refrigerate or freeze any colostrum not fed within 1-2 hours of collection to minimise bacterial growth.
We can test your calves’ blood to check they have the immunity they should from colostrum - this way you can be confident in your colostrum management system. We also have Brix refractometers for sale so you can test the quality of your colostrum on-farm.
Please contact our team for help to get your calves ahead and to become the healthiest they can be so that you can benefit for years to come!