Are your calves getting enough colostrum?
Colostrum management for newborn calves remains a problem on many farms. The modern dairy cow doesn’t share the same level of maternal instinct as her predecessor. She may produce a greater volume of colostrum but it is more dilute.
Colostrum quality declines at a rate of 4% an hour which may not seem high but if she is not milked immediately her colostrum will be on average 25% weaker when she gets into the parlour than when her calf was born.
The calf will only absorb 50% of what it was capable of at two hours old. The secret therefore is getting colostrum in quickly, within two hours of birth, and giving a minimum of three litres, preferably four, in that period.
If a stomach tube is used a bag will only hold between two and two-and-a-half litres so it will have to be partially refilled.
It is worth feeding colostrum after 24 hours, especially if calves are vaccinated for scour, as they will get the benefit of antibodies in the small intestine.
Farm-stored colostrum can have a very high Total Bacterial Count (TBC) so care should be taken when storing it. Johnes disease is also a consideration.
It is possible to rear calves that have not received enough colostrum but it is best to rear them away from the main, healthy group of calves.
This will reduce potential disease levels, prevent these calves from being a source of new infection and reduce work and cost.