The health of calves in the first three months of life is based on passive immunity, which they achieve by taking colostrum. However, the quality of colostrum can vary greatly, and so can the amount of colostrum a calf needs. The quality of the colostrum can be measured with a refractometer by one drop of milk. 200 mg Immunoglobulins in the first day make the calf a lot stronger during the days of passive immunity (first 3 months). Measuring Immunoglobulins in the colostrum helps to know how much liters colostrum a calf needs the first day.
Sophisticated colostrum management offers both dairy farmers and beef producers the advantage of lower calf mortality and reduced antibiotic use. The recommendations for appropriate management are as follows:
- milk the cow within one hour after birth,
- Give the calf at least 2 liters of colostrum within 2 hours after birth. The total amount of colostrum depends on its quality (check the quality (quantity of antibodies) of colostrum with a refractometer) and the weight of the calf,
- Give preferably colostrum from calf’s mother to avoid cross-contamination,
- Place unused fresh colostrum in the refrigerator (maximum 4°C) or in the freezer within two hours if you wish to store it for a longer period. This is important to prevent bacterial growth.
The biggest challenge in implementing this plan is to raise awareness of how different the quality of colostrum can be. Factors such as time of milking, breed, production level of the cow, parity, drought or season, all have an influence on the quality. A product that is subject to so many influencing factors cannot be of uniform quality!
Good colostrum management lays the foundation for a healthy life!
This Good Practice has an Impact on:
- Socioeconomic resilience: less mortality, decreased veterinary costs
- Animal health and welfare: decreased mortality, less antibiotics needed
- Production efficiency and meat quality: increased daily growth of calves
The measuring of colostrum quality was demonstrated in Germany, the report about the demonstration can be seen here.
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