Colostrum Importance in Calves: When, Quantity & Quality
Colostrum is important in calves since they are born with no antibodies. Making sure that calves get proper amounts of good quality colostrum is a very critical part of calf care. If calves do not receive quality colostrum it will impair the calf's ability to grow and fight of diseases. Proper management practices are essential for excellent calf health.
What is colostrum?
-Colostrum is the first milk after the cow gives birth. It contains important antibodies called immunoglobulins(Igs). These Igs provide disease resistance for the calf.
Why is colostrum important for calves?
-Calves are born without any antibodies to protect them from diseases. If they don't receive colostrum they will not have any protection from diseases.
When should colostrum be fed?
-Timing is a very critical part of feeding colostrum.
-Colostrum should be fed at least within 24 hours after birth. After the 24 hour time period the absorption of the Igs has been compromised.
-Colostrum need to get into the blood stream before the bacteria gets absorbed and enters the blood stream so it can prevent disease from happening
-For optimal absorption colostrum should be fed right away after birth and a second feeding should be given 12 hours after that.
-2 main factors to be consider:
1.Loss of absorptive sites
2.Bacterial colonization in the intestine
How much colostrum should be fed?
-This really depends on the size of the calf. Small calves don't need as much as larger calves.
-All calves should receive 2 liters right after birth. Larger calves should get up to 4 liters right after birth. They should also receive the same amount 12 hours later.
-A rule of thumb to go by is calves should get 10-15% of their body weight at the first feeding.
Quality of colostrum?
-Quality depends on the amount of Igs in the colostrum.
-First milking is higher than second milking and second milking is better than the third milking. After the third milking it is not considered colostrum any more.
-A colostrometer can be used to measure the Igs to determine the quality of colostrum.
-Older cows have higher quality colostrum than first calf heifers.
-Larger volumes of colostrum can lead to poorer quality colostrum.
-Colostrum can be froze for later use.
-If you freeze colostrum you need to thaw it slowly in warm water. This is critical because you don't want to kill all the nutrients in the colostrum.
Should you use colostrum supplements?
-Maternal colostrum is always the best way to go if possible
-Colostrum supplements are great if:
-No colostrum is available
-Poor quality colostrum
-Cow has mastitis
-Colostrum is contaminated with other diseases (Johnes, Leukosis, etc.)
Colostrum is a vital factor to the health of your calves. Feeding colostrum right after birth is the optimal time and then again 12 hours later. If colostrum is unavailable from the dam then colostrum supplements are available for use. Get your calves of to the right start today by trying one of these colostrum supplements.
Great Colostrum Replacement
Excellent Colostrum Replacement