Friday, February 15, 2013

Calf Colostrum

Colostrum is vital for the newborn calves health and well being. The calf's immune system is not fully developed when born. It is not fully developed until it is one to two months old. Colostrum contains antibodies and immunoglobulins necessary for protection against disease. Colostrum is the first milk the cow produces post birth of the calf. It is full of essential nutrients and antibodies which are not present in the milk produced later on. A calf should receive at least two litres of colostrum within the first two hours of life. A further two litres should be given four hours later with a big calf getting three litres. Colostrum can only be absorbed by the calf's stomach wall during the first 24 hours of life. After this time the antibodies cannot be absorbed but the calf continues feeding on the colostrum.
Dairy cows tend to have a lower class colostrum than beef cows as large colostrum volumes tend to have a lower volume of antibody concentration. Older cows also tend to have a higher class of colostrum than first and second time birthers.

To ensure that the calf gets a vital amount of colostrum the four teats of the cow should be drawn and put into a bucket with a teat on it. Calves are born with a strong suck and should have it drunk in 5 minutes. Some weak calves will not suck so the will have to be fed by stomach tube.
Inadequate colostrum results in diarrhea in calves and high mortality rates. A calf should receive 5 to 6% of its body weight in colostrum in the first 6 hours of life and another 5 to 6% of its body weight of colostrum when the calf is 12 hours old.

Studies have shown that at 6 hours after birth calves absorbed 66% of the immunoglobulins from the colostrum but at 36 hours after birth they were only able to absorb 7% of the immunoglobulins.
Calves that have endured prolonged calving may be too weak to suckle off the mother and may have to be given commercial colostrum which is not as good as the cows colostrum but will improve the calf's chance of survival compared to going without. It is best to milk the cows colostrum and tube feed the calf when the calf is too weak to stand and suckle.
Colostrum can be collected and stored for use at a later date. It should be collected from cows within 24 hours of calving. Store it in zip lock bags for convenience and each bag should have an ideal serving quantity. Do not thaw and refreeze. Colostrum can be stored in a freezer for up to one year. The colostrum should be thawed slowly in warm water. It should be warmed to 40°C.

Its best to use colostrum from your own herd for disease control.Mixing colostrum from a group of cows to feed different calves can cause the spread of Johnes disease.

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