high quality colostrum milk essential for a kickstart in life
Calves are born without antibodies, also known as agammaglobulinemia. To ensure that the calf is less vulnerable to infections, it is important to supply sufficient and high-quality immunoglobulins (IgG) to the calf as soon as possible. These antibodies are proteins that protect the calf against possible infections and are present in colostrum milk. But how much should a calf actually receive? And is every colostrum ‘good’? This article answers your questions!
How much colostrum does a calf need?
During the first 6 hours of life the calf will need to take at least 200 grams of immunoglobulins (IgG). However, not all these antibodies enter the bloodstream. For efficient absorption, the colostrum must contain at least 50 grams of IgG per litre, which means that 4 litres of good quality colostrum must be administered in the first 6 hours so that it can be absorbed by the bloodstream. After 24 hours the intestine is closed for absorption of antibodies into the blood. Immediately after birth, it is recommended to feed 2 to 2.5 litres of colostrum milk through a teat bucket.
Not only the amount of antibodies, but also the bacteriological quality is essential for a good start of the calf. This quality can be negatively affected by the germs the cow excretes via the udder (e.g. Mycoplasma bovis) or because the colostrum is stored in an unhygienic way after milking. In both cases, colostrum full of good antibodies may still have a negative influence on the newborn calf due to infections such as Salmonella, Mycoplasma bovis, paratuberculosis or Listeria.
why does one pasteurise colostrum milk?
More and more dairy farmers are turning to the pasteurisation of colostrum. Pasteurising colostrum makes it possible to extend its shelf life while preserving the immunoglobulins and other important nutrients. An important advantage of pasteurisation is the elimination of infection risks of (purchased) carrier cows. In many farms, certain infections are transmitted via the colostrum. Pasteurisation can be done in several ways. One of those ways is via our milk taxi. Optionally, it can be equipped with a pasteurisation function in order to offer high quality milk.
The preference is to pasteurise only a few litres at a temperature of 60°C at a time for 60 minutes.
The quality of the colostrum is linked to the content of solids in the colostrum, i.e. the dry matter. The more dry matter, the better the quality. Cow’s milk contains approximately 12.5% dry matter, while colostrum should contain more than 25%. Measuring the quality used to be done with a vulnerable colostrum meter, or in the laboratory. Nowadays it is easy and accurate to measure with a digital hand refractometer (brix) from Holm&Laue.
A brix refactormeter measures the refraction of light shining through a sample. This way it can calculate how much dry matter there is in a sample and then indicates a brix value. A brix value higher than 19% can also indicate a value in immunoglobulins. Common cow’s milk has a value of 11 to 16%.
Colostrum with a value of 17 to 22% is bad and certainly not suitable for heifers. Good colostrum has a value of at least 23% and above 26% it is very good. When the calf needs to absorb 200 grams of IgG in the first 6 hours, the brix value of the milk is leading how many litres is sufficient.
- Provide 200 grams of immunoglobulin (IgG) within the first 6 hours of life of the calf.
- Clean and disinfect the material used to feed the colostrum after each calf.
- Measuring is knowing. Colostrum with >50 grams of IgG is good colostrum.
- Bacteriological quality is just as important. Always guarantee hygiene.
- Colostrum that is not fed straight away must be frozen immediately (-20°C), so that the bacteria present do not multiply during storage.
- Do not heat colostrum above 60°C, so that proteins do not bind.
- Pasteurisation only gives good results if colostrum quality and hygiene are in order.