The Importance of Colostrum in Calves
Colostrum is the mechanism Mother Nature uses to transfer important immune and growth factors and nutrients from the dam to the newborn calf after birth.
Early ingestion of good quality colostrum is essential to both the early health and survival and also the long term productivity of newborn calves.
In short, the benefits of proper colostrum feeding are immediate and long lasting. There are also different and distinct benefits from feeding colostrum on day 1, and after day 1 of a calf’s life.
Day 1 Feeding of Colostrum – The objective is to achieve the highest possible level of IgG in the calf’s blood so as to prevent “Failure of Passive Transfer” or FPT. FPT occurs when a calf has less than 10g of IgG per liter of blood (<10g/L) when it is 24 to 36 hours of age by which time absorption of colostral ingredients from the intestine into the blood has stopped. Calves that have FPT are much more susceptible to becoming ill and dying than calves with serum IgG levels above 10g/L. Research has also shown that calves with even higher serum IgG levels have higher long term productivity, including weight gain and milk production as adults, and also lower culling rates.
Post Day 1 Feeding of Colostrum – Prevention of Enteritis (Scours) – This is also referred to as “post closure” feeding of colostrum because it occurs after the calves intestine has “closed” or stopped absorbing colostral ingredients into its blood. During this time colostrum is still digested and the key ingredients provide local protection as well as growth and healing benefits to intestinal tissue. Therefore feeding smaller amounts of colostrum after day 1 can help prevent enteritis and diarrhea (scours) in many situations. It can also provide calves with a critical source of extra energy during periods of heat or cold stress.