How Much Colostrum is Right?
According to scientific review, 10-12% of the calf’s bodyweight is the ideal volume of colostrum to give to a calf. Most Holstein calves are born between 35 and 40kg, so 3.5 Litres would be recommended as the first feed. Take milk from the mother and administer by tube and bag to ensure the full amount is given.
When is the ideal time to give it?
The highest amount of immune transfer to the calf is found when you follow this protocol:
- Give 10-12% bodyweight of the calf from the mother AT BIRTH or within 1 hour of birth
- Give a second amount of the same volume within 6-12 hours of birth
- At least another feed within 24 hours
- Continue to feed colostrum for the first 4 days: You have to withdraw this milk anyway in the EU (you may lose 2 days in the US/Canada)
Colostrum contains antibodies, which are absorbed by the calf for the first 12-24 hours. It ALSO contains immune cells, cytokines and other proteins that protect and prepare the calf’s immune system in its gut. This can help to set up the maximum protection against pathogen attack and has been shown to reduce diarrhoea and improve growth weights to weaning age.
Where’s the Evidence?
Paste these references into Google Scholar and read the articles to find out more:
- Jaster E.H., (2005), “Evaluation of quality, quantity and timing of colostrum feeding on immunoglobulin G1 absorption in Jersey calves”, Journal of Dairy Science, 88, 296-302
- Godden S., (2008), “Colostrum Management for Dairy Calves.” Veterinary Clinics of North America Food Animal Practice 24: 19-39
- Atkinson D.J., von Keyserlingk M.A.G., Weary D.M., (2017), “Benchmarking passive transfer of immunity and growth in dairy calves”, Journal of Dairy Science, 100, 3773-3782