SCCL, a leader in developing and producing innovative colostrum products, provides tips for knowing when and how to feed calves colostrum.
How do good colostrum feeding practices impact calf productivity?
The single, most important meal your calves will consume in their lifetime is the first feeding of colostrum.
However, the impact of good colostrum feeding practices is often overlooked. Good colostrum feeding practices and feeding more colostrum can lead to 1) improved average daily gain; 2) reduced treatment costs and; 3) better feed conversion efficiency. Improvement in these three areas offers financial benefits to your dairy.
When do calves need a colostrum supplement or replacement?
There are many instances when your calves should be fed a colostrum product. For example, calves born in very cold weather, twin births and calves born to first-calf heifers benefit from colostrum supplementation. However, calves born with difficulty are at greatest risk for failure of passive transfer of immunity since they are often slow to get up and suckle. Additionally, these calves’ ability to absorb antibodies may be compromised due to the delay of nursing and altered metabolic parameters. Whenever a calf is born with intervention or assistance, the calf should receive at least a supplemental dose of colostrum, if not a full replacement dose.
When should colostrum be fed?
With each minute that passes after birth, a calf’s ability to absorb antibodies is reduced. By 24 hours the gut is almost completely closed and can no longer absorb antibodies. Therefore, colostrum must be fed as soon as possible after birth, ideally within an hour. If colostrum has been delayed past 2 hours, feed larger amounts to compensate for reduced absorption.
How much colostrum do calves need?
When it comes to your calves and colostrum, more is better. Most veterinarians recommend calves receive at least 1 gallon or 4 liters of good quality colostrum, which should provide at least 200-300g of IgG.
Good quality colostrum replacers can be used when the dam does not provide sufficient volume or where colostral quality/IgG/antibody concentration is low. A significant percentage of first-calf heifers produce only small volumes of colostrum, sometimes less than 1 liter, so their calves would benefit from a colostrum supplement or replacer.
New USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System data shows calves with 8 g/L serum IgG (indicative of failure of passive transfer of immunity) had a 40.3% chance of becoming ill and 5.2% risk of mortality. In comparison, calves with excellent passive immunity - indicated by serum IgG levels of 30 g/L or higher - had a 29.3% risk of illness and 2.0% risk of death.
If feeding 300g of a colostrum replacer, it is recommended to divide the colostrum into multiple feedings. Do not feed the entire amount at once.
How should colostrum be fed?
First, attempt to bottle feed your calf. If the calf does not consume the entire bottle or colostrum feeding is delayed past 6 hours, tube feeding the remainder is suggested in attempt to achieve successful passive transfer of immunity. Since absorption slows significantly as each hour passes, calves also benefit from a second and third feeding of colostrum.
Should cold weather calves be treated differently?
Calves have a thermal neutral zone of 59 to 77°F (15 to 25°C) and many are born in conditions much colder than that. Calves need a timely feeding of colostrum to warm them by providing energy to produce body heat. (Note that bottle fed colostrum should be warm but not too hot to immerse your hand in.) Colostrum contains unique colostral fat that initiates metabolism of brown fat stores, which fuels the calf’s internal furnace for heat and energy to get up, suckle, stay warm and stay alive.
Can you use colostrum from your cows, and if so, how?
Herd colostrum can be used to supplement calves of other dams, but to be done right, it is a demanding process. Colostrum should be collected with sanitized equipment within 2 hours after birth of the calf. Then, it should be tested with a refractometer to measure quality; only colostrum that meets parameters consistent with high IgG/antibody levels should be used. The colostrum should be cooled in small 1L or less containers as quickly as possible since bacteria numbers double every 20 minutes. Then, the colostrum should be stored in a refrigerator for no more than 48 hours or frozen for no more than a year. Avoid repeated freezing and thawing as this may reduce colostrum quality and lifespan.
What should you look for in a colostrum product?
Examine ingredient labels carefully. Colostrum products can be made from various sources; however, the greatest benefits come from feeding actual colostrum rather than formulas of proteins and fats from other sources. Colostrum-based products contain all the immune, metabolic and growth factors naturally found in maternal colostrum.
One important ingredient is colostral fat. Colostral fat is essential for activating brown fat metabolism, an important energy source required by the calf immediately after birth. Products that contain blood or whey with added vegetable and animal fats not naturally found in colostrum do not provide the same benefits for the calf, and some of these products contain no actual colostrum.
Also, look for products that are regulated by the USDA (United States) or CFIA (Canada) and backed by numerous safety and efficacy studies published in scientific journals.
What colostrum products are available through GENEX?
GENEX offers an array of colostrum products to meet your needs whether feeding a full replacer or a supplement. Calf’s Choice Total® HiCal Colostrum, Calf’s Choice Total® Gold, PureStart™ Colostrum and Genesis Colostrum are available online or through your local GENEX representative.
*OMRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides an independent review of products against the organic standards. Acceptable products are OMRI Listed® and appear on the OMRI Products List© or OMRI Canada Products List©.
Push™ calf nutritional paste was released about four years ago and its following of loyal users has continued to grow. One of the first individuals introduced to its benefits was Brad Johnson, GENEX Director of Beef Genetics. He wrote about his experience shortly after trying the product. Here is his story from 2015.
My wife, Lindsay, and I have a small herd of Angus and Red Angus cows outside of Shawano, Wisconsin. Earlier this year the GENEX Communications department, gave me two tubes of Push™, a new protein and energy paste for calves. My mission was to get a photo while I was administering a tube to one of our calves for the upcoming advertising campaign of this new product. “No problem.”
We calve our heifers in February and the cows primarily in March and April. February in northeast Wisconsin is cold and snowy while March and April are cold, wet and muddy; neither time is ideal, that’s for sure. In fact, Lindsay has occasionally threatened to find a more patient A.I. technician so we can calve when it’s warmer! We built a few temporary calving pens in a pole shed and rotate cows in and pairs out. It works okay as long as we’re prepared.
This year Heifer #351 decided to calve outside on a cold, windy January day, about 10 days early! Upon noticing the newborn, I quickly shuffled the new pair to the shed, snapped on a LIFEJACKET™ calf coat and began my normal new calf processing routine. I remembered the tube of Push™ nutritional paste stowed in the back pocket of my coveralls, so I gave it to the calf. Either it was too cold and windy for the photographer or two young kids were occupying her time, but we didn’t get a photo taken. In short order the calf was up and nursing and showing great vigor, so I felt pretty confident I’d gotten to the new calf in good time. About two weeks later, the calf’s ear tag fell completely out as her ears continued to get shorter and shorter from the frostbite she’d suffered. It was then I finally realized how much stress the calf had experienced. One tube of Push™ nutritional paste left.
Heifer #312 spent several nights in the calving shed because the vet called her A.I. bred, but it soon became apparent she must have been bull bred. She was the last heifer to calve. I was tiring of 2:00 a.m. checks, so I was glad to see when she started calving at 10:00 p.m. I went back inside with intentions of giving her two hours. After the two hours it was clear I’d be assisting this delivery. Long story short, #312 delivered an 87 lb. bull calf with moderate help. Not the worst pull ever but stressful for the calf nonetheless. While Junior, the newborn calf, laid there sprawled out not doing much of anything, I again thought of the Push™ nutritional paste in my back pocket. He looked like a calf that could use a pick-me-up. Should I text the sleeping photographer to wake up, get dressed and come out into the cold to take our picture? What would any sane husband do? I opted to let Lindsay sleep. Fast forward 10 minutes and the calf was up drinking happily, thanks in large part to that tube of Push™ nutritional paste. I consider Junior a great advertisement for Push™ nutritional paste and for using proven A.I. sires on your heifers! Zero tubes of Push™ nutritional paste left.
The next morning, I called and ordered a box of Push™ nutritional paste. While these two examples aren’t the most difficult calving experiences I’ve ever seen, I am confident Push™ nutritional paste works, and it helped these two calves get up and going. I’m going to make sure I’ve always got a tube of Push™ nutritional paste in my back pocket when calving season rolls around. Now if we could just get that darn picture taken…
Procuring your calf care products just got a little easier as GENEX introduced ReMOOV™ horn paste, an easy-to-use caustic paste that inhibits horn growth. This product contains a mixture of calcium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide in an aqueous glycerine gel. Using the paste over other horn growth inhibiting methods means:
› Less stress to the animal
› No expensive equipment
› No bad smell
This new product has even more great features:
› ReMOOV™ horn paste is packaged in a uniquely designed syringe that measures out the perfect amount of paste needed for each horn button.
› The syringe also has a special tip enabling precise application to the horn bud.
"Not only does the syringe make this product easy to administer but it is also less painful to the animal, less stressful for the animal and you, and there is not bad burning smell like there is with hot irons," states Bob East, senior manager of the GENEX herd care line.
ReMOOV™ horn paste is available in 1.6 oz syringes that can disbud approximately 24 animals. They are packaged at six syringes per box.
Click here to learn more or purchase online today.
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