Colostrum Management – Are You Doing Enough?

A newborn calf has no protective antibodies (otherwise known as Immunoglobulins or‘IG’s’)to fight disease or any health challenges. These IG’s can only be absorbed via colostrum and will protect the calf against disease for the first 8 weeks of life, until its own immune system develops. Therefore colostrum is very important, otherwise known as ‘White Gold’ in the calf rearing world!

Everyone has a different colostrum protocol on their farm, and if it works, stick to it, but since I have been doing some calf research, I have come across a few facts which may make you think about how you feed colostrum to your calves…

  • TIMING: Feed ASAP – the longer the calf goes without colostrum, the less is absorbed. At 6hrs, only 66% is absorbed, and 12hrs, only 47% is absorbed.
  • QUALITY: Milk the cow ASAP post calving to reap the benefits. The graph shows the effect of delayed colostrum quality…remember you are aiming to feed 200 IG’s to the calf in its first feed.
  • STORAGE: Don’t leave colostrum to sit at room temperature, because for every 20 mins colostrum is stored at room temperature, the bacteria population doubles. Either refrigerate or freeze within an hour of collection.
  • FEEDING: Feed the calf yourself – research shows that up to 50% of calves left alone to suckle the dam, will not absorb adequate IG’s to provide protection and immunity.

These are only a few pointers, which may make you think about your own colostrum program. I am writing a detailed range of calf technical notes which will contain more in depth information on the following subjects.

  • New born calf management
  • Colostrum Management
  • Milk feeding
  • Rumen development
  • Cold weather management
  • Weaning

These will be available to all customers. You will be able to collate them to compile a complete guide and then arrange a visit from me to talk about the notes and your own Calf Rearing Management.

Jenny Ashton