The Magic Potion for Calves: Colostrum
January 21th 2021
Calves are born into an environment with numerous germs. While other animals can cope with these germs (viruses, bacteria, parasites) without any problems, newborn calves have a more difficult time.
Unlike humans, calves do not receive key factors for immune defense in the womb and are therefore not resistant to diseases.
How Can You Strengthen the Health and Performance of a Calf?
The answer to the question is very simple! You have to feed your newborns with colostrum directly after birth. This is the only way to maintain the health and performance of your animals in the future. Colostrum is the first milk from the mother cow and medicine for the calf. It is therefore the milk that the cow gives directly on the first day of birth. With this procedure you are not only transferring the immune defense of your farm animals directly to the newborn calf, but you also make sure that the inexperienced immune system gets a proper training.
So the Real Magic Comes with the Taking in of Colostrum.
However, timing plays a significant role in this procedure. Immunoglobulins are most concentrated in colostrum immediately after birth. After that, it gradually becomes poorer and is referred to as transition milk. The reason: further milk that is produced in the udder thins the colostrum and the concentration of antibodies becomes lower. In addition to immunoglobulins, colostrum contains other components important for the calf, such as peptide hormones, growth promoters, cytokines, steroid hormones, and vitamins. They are all important for the early development of the digestive and immune systems. If the calf does not receive the required amount of colostrum, its chances of survival are significantly reduced and it becomes much more susceptible to diarrhea and lung diseases.
The Calf's Ability to Absorb Immunoglobulins Steadily Decreases after Birth.
Colostrum is therefore a true magic potion and the basis for the calf's health, not only in the first days of life but also in the long term. The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, therefore, advises giving calves an amount of around 10 percent of their body weight in the first two hours of life.
Timing, Quantity, Quality, Hygiene
Not only the timing but also the quality of the colostrum is important. The assumption that older cows produce the best colostrum with the most immunoglobulins is a misconception. So far, there has been found no correlation between the age of the mother or her milk yield and the number of immunoglobulins produced in the colostrum. However, in order for a cow to produce sufficient high-quality colostrum, a lot of attention must be given to correct feeding during the dry period. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to use a colostrometer to determine the quality of each milk before feeding. This is the only way to determine whether the mother cow has produced sufficient colostrum or whether you need to switch to colostrum substitutes. Furthermore, hygiene plays an important role in the production and feeding of colostrum: too many bacteria in the milk reduce the calf's absorption capacity.
The more we have researched about colostrum, the more we have realized how important it is to supply calves with sufficiently high amounts as early as possible. Optimal colostrum supply is an essential factor in reducing calf diseases and trains the inexperienced immune system. Furthermore while reading about colostrum some questions popped out in our heads: What would happen if humans also started to consume colostrum? And how far would this strengthen the human immune system? Or would the colostrum activate the animal in the human being? :) But perhaps we could discuss this topic in another article, what do you think?