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Importance of colostrum for new born calves

What is bovine colostrum?

Colostrum is a white milky fluid that cattle produce during the first few days of delivery of the calf which is rich in antibodies, immunoglobulin, and other growth-promoting that helps the calves to fight against bacterial and viral diseases and helps in the development of the calves.

Why is colostrum important?

The colostrum produced in the initial few days after the birth of the calf contains almost 100 times more antibodies than regular milk produced by the cattle. It has been proven scientifically that these immunoglobulins and antibodies have a positive impact on the overall growth and development of the caves and help the newborn in building up their immune system in the initial days after birth.

The colostrum produced have a high content of essential amino acids, which synthesis proteins, that are necessary for the immune building activities, it is also rich in carbohydrates and have almost double the number of oligosaccharides, which is a type of sugar residue that is not abundant in the diet compared to other carbohydrates.

The abundance of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, K, and B vitamins respectively are found in a higher concentration in colostrum than mature milk which are basic requisites for many of the metabolic activities such as bone development and antioxidant production imperative for the immune system.

How much colostrum does a newborn calf need?

The first portion of the colostrum should be given to the calves within one hour of birth, the further delay to this can increase the risk of mortality and susceptibility to diseases. Second feeding should be done within 12 hours and third feeding within 24 hours. The calf should be given ~1 litre of colostrum in each feeding. 

The quality of the colostrum plays a significant role in the amount of colostrum to be given in the first portion, usually a good to very good quality of colostrum containing 100 to 200 grams of immunoglobulin should be fed. Good quality colostrum should have a BRIX measurement of more than or equal to 22.

It is found that feeding the calves after birth can significantly improve the passive immunity transfer and the calf needs colostrum of good quality for efficient absorption of immunoglobulins. If the colostrum is of poor quality, then the calf should be given calf colostrum replacers as an alternative artificial colostrum for calf.

Thus a good quality of colostrum plays a vital role in the successful transfer of passive immunity to ensure reduced risk of mortality, improved rate of gain, and overall development, so it is recommended to feed the calf with colostrum up to three weeks of age.


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