I have written an article about this before, but it is so important that I am going to refresh everyone’s mind about the facts again. I get a lot of questions about colostrum and newborn babies. These babies must have at least 10 percent of their body weight the first 18 hours of life.
Back in the late 1990s, Universities and the United States Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Neb., discovered the reason for this. They found that all calves that received 1 gallon of good quality colostrum within the first 18 hours of life were healthier all the way to the packer. When you think about this, it will make a lot of difference in how healthy our calves are throughout the first two years of their life.
Now, one of the main things I hear is, “I went to the store and got some colostrum and gave the calf some.” Okay, what was the quality of that colostral supplement you bought? Most are not that great. I have seen the pills they have and when you look, they are nothing but good bacteria. They do not have bovine IgG at all. When we look at getting our calves immunity right after birth, we want around 150-180 grams of IgG going into their abomasum. And if you really look at the ingredients of all of these colostral supplements, that is all they are is supplements, not replacements.
There is a huge difference between a supplement and replacement. A replacement will take the place of momma’s milk, where as a supplement will just boost what the calf gets from momma. There is only one artificial colostral replacement that is sold commercially and it is out of Canada. I try to keep it in stock. The absolute best colostral replacement is from another cow but all cows are not equal in the production of colostrum. So, we must test the colostrum before use.
This testing of colostrum can be done very easily on the farm. There are two methods. One way is to buy a colostrometer. (Then while it is sitting on the counter someone bumps it and it falls over on the counter and shatters. There goes about $50.) The other way, and my preferred method is to use an antifreeze tester. They were proven to work by a classmate of mine back in the late 1980s. You just have to remember the rule of thumb; a bull has to have two balls to be worth a hoot, but a cow better float three or four balls. And you only feed four-ball colostrum to newborns. Most of us have an antifreeze tester in our shop somewhere. If not, they only cost about $5-10, check your local auto parts store.
These facts and rules of thumb should help you out with calving season that’s starting right now. It is very, very important to get that colostral intake within the first18 hours of life.


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