The first two days can make or break any calf

0-2 DAYS

The first colostrum feeding is all about timing, colostrum quality, volume and temperature.

In the first two days of life, you have to ensure the calf receives sufficient antibodies from colostrum. You also need to supply enough energy to maintain the calf’s body temperature at the correct level. The first colostrum feeding is all about timing, quality, volume and temperature. Colostrum quality is the most important of these qualifiers and can be influenced in various ways. For good colostrum, be sure the feeding strategy of the dam during the close-up phase is correct to ensure the colostrum quality and quantity produced on the day of calving are correct.

Other rearing dairy calves topics

Around calving
0-2 DAYS
3-49 DAYS
8-10 WEEKS
5 months until breeding

Why is colostrum so important?

At birth, dairy calves do not have antibodies against pathogens and therefore have no resistance at all to calf diseases. The calf can only obtain the necessary antibodies by drinking sufficient good-quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. There are 2 more reasons that colostrum is important.

Firstly, calves are born with a low energy reserve compared to other mammals (See graph). So calves need an energy boost as soon as possible after birth. Compared to normal milk, colostrum contains the double amount of solids and energy. This makes cow colostrum the right super-fuel after birth.

Secondly, it contains ingredients – hormones, growth factors, insulin, etc – which activate the development of the gut, and support the digestion of milk solids in the early days of life.

How to measure colostrum quality?

The quality of the colostrum is a make or break factor for the health of newborn calves. To check colostrum quality, farmers should use a BRIX-refractometer. The BRIX-refractometer is a simple, cheap and accurate tool to determine the level of milk solids and thereby the quality of the colostrum. Every farmer should have one! This video shows how to use the BRIX-refractometer for measuring colostrum quality and get a reliable result.

Settle for the best colostrum quality

Colostrum is important for calves. It contains antibodies and a number of other substances that are very important for an optimal start. A quick and hygienic provision of colostrum of high quality is therefore crucial.

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