The Good, The Bad & The Ugly About Colostrum

Good colostrum-feeding practices are undeniably highly beneficial, but be aware, improper colostrum management can be the reason for serious problems in the herd.

The Good About Colostrum

Feeding high quality colostrum containing appropriate specificities and adequate levels of antibodies and other important nutritional and biologically active substances is probably the single most important factor influencing successful transition of a newborn calf to an effective productive unit. There are 3 primary benefits of timely high quality colostrum ingestion. The first, often overlooked, is the contribution of colostrum as an immediate source of energy, readily available and essential for the survival of the calf during the first hours of life. The second, and most recognized, relates to the immunological protection of the neonatal calf against infectious agents during the first weeks of life. And lastly, the third positive impact of good colostrum feeding practices is the impact that it has on the long-term productivity of the animal. A good start is needed to capitalize on the genetic potential of the calf.

The Bad and The Ugly About Colostrum

Just as good colostrum-feeding practices are undeniably highly beneficial, colostrum can also be the source of significant challenges for the dairy farmer.  There are three primary concerns associated with colostrum and colostrum management. The first relates to the inconvenience and difficulty of handling fresh or frozen colostrum and/or of using on-farm colostrum pasteurization methods.  The second area of concern relates to the uncertainty of the nutritional and immunological quality of the highly variable maternal colostrum produced by dairy cows and the impact of this variability on calf health and management.  The third and often overlooked area of concern in managing colostrum feeding on dairy farms relates to contribution of colostrum and colostrum feeding practices to disease transmission.  Special emphasis should be placed on the importance of colostrum management in biosecurity in the dairy.  

Manuel Campos
Manuel Campos
DVM, MSc, PhD - South America Veterinary Technical Services, The Saskatoon Colostrum Company
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