Importance of Good Colostrum

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Wednesday September 11, 2013

Providing the right amount of high quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth, ensures all calves get off to a great start. Roughly 10% of the calf’s body weight should be consumed within the first few hours of life.

Benefits include:

• Better growth rates

• Reduced death rates

• Less scours and diseases

• Improved milk production long term

What is colostrum?

In a cow, the placenta keeps maternal blood supply separate to the unborn calf; therefore preventing antibody transfer from the cow to the calf before birth.

Colostrum is a unique mixture of components derived from the cow’s udder and blood. This is the substance which provides antibodies that form protection against infectious diseases for the calf. This is particularly essential in the first 6 weeks after birth, until the calf can develop its own antibodies. Without good quality colostrum, calves are likely to die.

Colostrum quality

There are various methods available to measure colostrum quality. Two factors affecting colostrum quality are:

• Immunoglobulin concentrations (IgG)

• Bacteria contamination

Bacterial contamination of collected colostrum can restrict antibody absorption. Large numbers of bacteria in collected colostrum may bind to antibodies and inhibit their absorption by the calf. Bacteria also contribute to disease in the newborn calf. Basic hygiene is critical for reducing risk of collected colostrum becoming contaminated.

In summary to achieve successful transfer of immunity to a newborn calf ensure all calves are fed the correct amount of high quality colostrum as quickly as possible after birth.