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Colostrum, more than just IgG

Jackson Wright, Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

January 3, 2012

Colostrum is different from milk as it contains a mixture of both lacteal secretions and proteins found in blood serum. Colostrum production is under hormonal control and is influence by estrogen, progesterone, corticosteroids, growth hormones, and prolactin. During late gestation high levels of estrogen and progesterone initiate colostrum production. At parturition, the spike in corticosteroids and drop in progesterone facilitate the transition to normal milk production. In general, the first six milkings after parturition are considered colostrum due to differences in milk composition.

These differences in milk composition include higher levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In addition, high levels of fat and lactose provide the energy necessary for the calf to regulate its own body temperature. This is critical, as research has suggested that without this energy source calves fat stores would only last about 18 hours. Moreover, colostrum represents the first time the newborn calf will obtain nutrients through digestion instead of from the placenta or maternal blood supply. In addition to energy, the high levels of vitamins and minerals in colostrum may be necessary to initiate the calf's metabolism and facilitate the development of its own digestive system. More interestingly, researchers have discovered that colostrum contains high levels of numerous growth hormones which include insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II), epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor (TGF), insulin, cortisol, relaxin and thyroxine. Most notably IGF-I and II have been shown to be important for both mammary development and maturation of the digestive system, and may influence the long-term thrift and performance of the animal. Finally, because colostrum is fluid this helps hydrate the neonate and the warmth helps the calf overcome the initial shock of entering the world.

Combined these factors show how high quality colostrum is more than just IgGs and feeding this first meal as soon as possible following parturition can influence the long-term thrift of the animal and improve performance as she transitions into the lactating herd.


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Forage Congress 2024

February 28, 2024
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March 13 - March 14, 2024

Farmers from Western NY, register now for our March 2024 Value-Added Dairy Processing Tour! We'll be traveling overnight and visiting 6+ locations to learn more about on-farm dairy processing and value-added products.

Please contact Margaret Quaassdorff at maq27@cornell.edu or 585-405-2567 with any questions or concerns.


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March 18, 2024 : Hands-on Dairy Animal Care Training- Albion, NY
Albion, NY

CCE Regional Dairy Specialists and PRO-Dairy have teamed together to bring interactive, hands-on workshops focusing on the five trainings required annually by FARM 4.0.  These topics include: calf care, stockmanship, euthanasia, fitness for transport and non-ambulatory cattle management.  We will also provide an update on FARM 5.0 requirements, which become active July 1, 2024.


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