Colostrum for newborn calf success

Feb 28, 2022

Calving season is here. I hope everyone has a place to get cows in out of the weather. It amazes me, the ability of a calf to survive and a cow to take care of the calf. However, no matter how many precautions we take, we still end up with a calf that needs a little assistance immediately after birth. If you are one to “give them a little milk replacer to get them by until they get up to nurse” you should consider the following.

Dr. Brian Vander Lay, of University of Nebraska Veterinary Education Center, says “that is a bad idea, and here is why. As soon as newborn calves get that first meal in their stomach - even just a small one - their gut wall begins to close, and they lose their ability to absorb the antibodies in colostrum necessary for immunity. To optimize antibody absorption and immunity for newborn calves, you have a 4-hour window to get them started off right. Colostrum should be the first thing that goes in the calf’s mouth. Never give probiotics or anything else before colostrum.”

When calves need supplemented colostrum, they need a full dose. If it is coming from the cow, milk as much out as you can to feed the calf. If you are purchasing your supplemental colostrum, it should contain 100-150 grams of antibody in a full dose. Make sure you are using a colostrum replacement, not a colostrum supplement. Bottle feeding is preferred to a stomach tube because the suckling process encourages the rumen to close. This allows the colostrum to bypass the rumen to the intestines for better absorption. Tubing will deposit the colostrum into the rumen which slows the absorption process.

Managing cow body condition score to be 5 or 6 results in fewer newborn calf issues. These cows will give birth more quickly, they produce better colostrum, the calves get up quicker, and they will receive better antibody protection.

At SFG we have a good selection of high-quality colostrum replacers and milk replacers for all your calving needs. We also have a large selection of tubs and grain supplements to keep your cows in top condition. Stop in and see us today to make sure you and your cows are ready for the upcoming calving season. Don’t forget to check out our mineral promotion going on now. This is a good time to lock in prices on your spring and summer mineral needs. Call Mike or I to talk about minerals.