Colostrum management is key to successful calf rearing and there are several factors to consider when implementing protocols.
The 4 Q’s of colostrum:
- Quickly – within the first six hours but most effective in the first two hours of life.
- Quantity – 4 litres or 10% of the calf’s body weight.
- Quality – must contain 50IgG per litre and be clean with a low bacterial load to ensure enough antibodies are given to the calf.
- Quietly – keep stress to a minimum to enable the calf to absorb the antibodies.
- Improving colostrum quality can be achieved through pasteurising, managing the dry period well, monitoring intakes and stress within the dry cow group and good clean harvesting of colostrum.
- With quality in mind, if colostrum quality is low it will need to be replaced or fortified. If good quality frozen colostrum is not available calf rearers can use colostrum replacers or supplements. There is a wide range of supplements available and they should be carefully checked to ensure they meet the needs of the calf.
- The passive transfer can be measured by blood sampling the calves in the first week of life to check if they have received enough antibodies, calves can be at high risk of disease if the passive transfer has failed
- Colostrum has more benefits than just providing antibodies to the calf, its high energy density and high vitamins and mineral levels have many added benefits to the calf and future health.