Colostrum Replacement and Supplement Products
Good colostrum management is one of the most important factors in getting calves off to a good start in life. An easy way to remember the main considerations for colostrum is the 5 Q’s:
Quickly - First feeding should be within 2 hours of birth and total feeding should be within 12 hours of birth and ideally within the first 6 hours of birth;
Quality - Take from healthy cows with clean udders, measure antibody levels periodically;
Quantity - At least 4L or 10-12% of body weight;
Quantify - Measure serum protein in calves under a week old to ensure successful passive transfer;
sQueaky Clean - Use only clean colostrum and measure cleanliness by coliform counts and total plate counts;
Colostrum contains protective antibodies called immunoglobulins, and there are different kinds of immunoglobulins, but the one that makes up the majority in colostrum is Immunoglobulin G (or IgG). The concentration of IgG in colostrum is the biggest indicator for good quality colostrum and likelihood of adequate passive transfer of immunity.
In terms of colostrum sources, if the 5 Q’s are followed, then the best source is directly from the dam. However, for various reasons (disease control, small volume of colostrum from a dam, twins etc.), a supplement or replacement colostrum product may be used. These products are generally made up of IgG, and some may also have some energy sources like fat. It should be said that these products do not provide the same variety of nutrients found in maternal colostrum, such as vitamins, growth factors, white blood cells, antibodies for specific diseases (which the dam produces either from exposure to disease or from vaccination), or other types of immunoglobulins. However, if the appropriate amount of IgG is delivered to the calf, these products can come close to the efficacy of maternal colostrum in providing immunity to the newborn.
What is the ideal amount of IgG for a calf? Most colostrum products will report the amount of IgG in the product in grams. The most recent research on calf immunity indicates that 200 grams of IgG brings calf immunity closest to that seen when fed colostrum from the dam. 150 grams should be the absolute minimum if you are trying to entirely replace colostrum and the calf is getting it from no other source, and 200 grams should be the goal.