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Colostrum: Quantity, Quality and Timeliness

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 10, 2013

We all know that feeding calves adequate amounts of high quality colostrum, and feeding it fast, is an essential part of getting them off to a good start. But do your employees understand just how critical this is? Share this refresher course on colostrum management with your Spanish-speaking employees, and brush up on your own Spanish so that you can get the message across.

Colostrum is the milk produced by cows prior to calving. It contains key nutrients to promote healthy growth, such as protein, vitamins, minerals and energy, as well as antibodies (or immunoglobulins, IgGs) to prevent disease. Since the calf's ability to absorb IgGs decreases quickly after birth, it is important to feed colostrum as soon as possible. Standard recommendations are to feed 4 quarts of colostrum within the first few hours after birth. You should strive to feed at least 50% of calves within the first hour after birth, which is the time in which they can most efficiently absorb IgGs.

While quantity and timing of colostrum feeding are important, quality should certainly not be forgotten. If possible, IgG levels should be measured using a Colostrometer to ensure that the antibody concentration is sufficient. Since colostrum provides a great medium for bacteria growth, utmost care should be taken to sanitize all containers (buckets, bottles, nipples, tubers, etc.) between uses and to cool colostrum quickly after milking if it will not be fed immediately.

Below you will find a few easy phrases to help you communicate the importance of high quality colostrum for healthy calves.

Calostro: Cantidad, Calidad y Puntualidad
El calostro es la leche producida por la vaca inmediatamente antes del parto. Contiene nutrientes claves como proteína, vitaminas, minerales y energía para promover un crecimiento sano, además anticuerpos (también conocidas como inmunoglobulinas o IgGs) para prevenir las enfermedades. Como la capacidad de la becerra de absorber las IgGs disminuye rápidamente después del nacimiento, es importante darla calostro lo más pronto como sea posible. La recomendación estándar es dar un galón de calostro dentro de las primeras horas después del nacimiento. Debe esforzarse dar de comer a por lo menos 50% de las becerras dentro de una hora después del nacimiento, como eso es el tiempo en que pueden absorber las IgGs con más eficiencia.
 
Mientras la cantidad y la puntualidad de la alimentación de calostro son importantes, no hay que olvidar la calidad. Si es posible, midan el nivel de IgGs con un Calostrometer para asegurar que el nivel de anticuerpos es suficiente. Como el calostro es un buen caldo para el cultivo de bacterias, hay que siempre desinfectar todos los envases (cubetas, botellas, biberones, tubos, etc.) después de cada uso y enfriar el calostro rápidamente después del ordeño si no lo van a usar inmediatamente.
 
Aquí se puede encontrar unas frases fáciles para ayudarle a comunicar sobre la importancia de calostro de alta calidad para becerras sanas.

Colostrum Handling El Manejo del Calostro
Always cover the colostrum pail Siempre tape la cubeta de calostro
Put the colostrum in the refrigerator Ponga el calostro en el refrigerador
Measure the IgGs in the colostrum Mida el nivel de IgGs en el calostro
Feed the calf quickly after birth Dela de comer rápidamente después del nacimiento
Feed the calf a gallon of colostrum Dé la becerra un galón de calostro
Disinfect the bottle Desinfecte la botella

Reference:
Leadly, Sam. Calf Facts. 



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