Monday, April 25, 2016 - Most cattle producers and veterinarians know how important it is to ensure a calf consumes an adequate amount of high-quality colostrum. It is also important to consider what can be done to enhance the “production side” of colostrum – the cow’s side.
Here are some things to consider as you strive to improve the quantity and quality (concentration of immunoglobulins) of colostrum.
• Late gestation nutrition: Cows with a body condition score of 5 or 6 at calving tend to produce more and higher-quality colostrum compared to thinner cows (< 4). However, there is some evidence that over-conditioned cows produce colostrum with lower immunoglobulin concentration.
• Trace Minerals: Providing adequate levels of trace minerals improves immunoglobulin concentration compared to cows on mineral-restricted diets.
• Parity: First-calf heifers produce colostrum in smaller volumes and lower immunoglobulin concentrations. The antibody concentration of colostrum increases with each successive pregnancy until a cow’s third calving, after which it levels off.
• Vaccinations: Vaccinating cows in late pregnancy has long been recognized as a method to improve colostrum quality. Cow vaccination against scours pathogens increases the concentration of colostrum immunoglobulins specific to the organisms vaccinated for.
• Environmental Factors: It is widely accepted that the organisms to which a cow is exposed influence the antibody profile of colostrum. Colostrum from cows brought in from different locations in late gestation may contain antibodies to different infectious organisms than are present in the cow’s new location. Thus, the calves may receive colostrum not specific to their exposure.
It may not be possible to determine how well an individual cow will produce colostrum before she calves. But stacking the deck in her favor with appropriate nutrition and care will help ensure you’re giving her, and her calf, the best chance possible.
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