As we enter peak calving on many farms it is worth reminding ourselves of the importance of colostrum. At the busiest time of the year it is easy to lose focus on colostrum management. However, instead of looking on it like another job that must be completed – many farmers now find it as a vital piece of their calving plan. Ensuring that all their calves receive adequate (3 litres approx.) colostrum within 2 hours of birth is the best start that you can give a newborn calf and will lead to less sick calves that require treatment and your time over the coming weeks.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk produced from the cow after calving, the next 2 - 8 milking’s is known as transition milk. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins (IgG’s). These are proteins that are critical in providing passive immunity to the newborn calf until its own immunity develops. Colostrum also contains higher levels of solids, fat, protein, antibodies, minerals and vitamins compared to transition and whole milk.
|Total Solids, %||23.9||17.9||14.1||12.5|
Why is timing so important?
The time after birth at which colostrum is fed is critical for two reasons:
- Passive immunity
- Resistance to disease.
A calf’s ability to absorb antibodies and immunoglobulins is highest just after birth and reduces rapidly over the next 24 hours.
|Within 2 Hours||Highest|
|After 6 hours||Reduced by 50%|
|After 12 hours||Reduced by 75%|
Likewise, the quality of colostrum is also declining over the same period – research has shown that the colostral IgG concentration declines by 3.7% each hour post calving.
Colostrum intended for future use should be immediately refrigerated or frozen. Colostrum that is stored uncooled for prolonged periods will rapidly decrease in quality due to rapid bacterial growth. If this is fed it will increase the undesirable pathogenic bacteria in the intestine, reducing the acquisition of passive immunity and absorption in the calf’s gut.
For short term storage, colostrum can be refrigerated below 4°C and used within 48 hours. Frozen colostrum can be stored for 12 months without changing its quality. Colostrum should be frozen in zip lock bags or in small quantities of 1-2 litres. Freezing colostrum in smaller quantities will make thawing the colostrum much easier.
The main concern when thawing colostrum is to avoid reducing quality on the immune proteins. For best practice, frozen or refrigerated colostrum should be warmed to body temperature and should be thawed in a warm water bath – the temperature of the water bath should not exceed 50°C. Colostrum should never be thawed in a microwave on high heat or in hot water.
Phosphorus and Sulphur for Spring Growth
With several farms having very little nitrogen (N) out at this stage – it is worth revising the fertilizer plan. Application rates should be increased to 1 bag/acre of urea. Increasing N application rates in the second round will also help increase the total amount of N out by the end of the first round of grazing.
Soil fertility is one of the key pillars to growing early spring grass. Phosphorus is one of the major elements in driving spring growth, along with the other elements, such as soil pH, nitrogen and Sulphur.
Spring Phosphorus has the effect of kick-starting grass growth however the P availability to the plant can be lower due to a number of reasons:
- Low background P levels in the soil (Index 1&2)
- Cooler Spring temperatures.
Sulphur is an important nutrient for grassland as it is closely associated with nitrogen uptake and efficiency.
As grass grows both Sulphur and Nitrogen are used together so a Sulphur deficiency will decrease nitrogen use efficiency and so reduce yield. Grazing swards deficient in Sulphur require 16 units per acre per year, apply in a little and often approach beginning in Spring. Avoid excess Sulphur applications during the growing season as it can affect the selenium and copper levels in the grass.
Applying phosphorus and Sulphur in your second-round application will help maximize the amount of grass grown in March/ April – a time of the year when any extra growth is always welcome.
18-6-12+Sulpher is a good option for meeting all the requirements of your second round of fertilizer.
Drinagh Supreme Cooked Calf Muesli
The highest quality calf starter available to feed to your calves
This superior quality calf muesli will give your calves the best possible start for rumen development. The finest ingredients are cooked, flaked and seamlessly blended to ensure palatability and stimulate uptake of feed by young calves. Higher intakes will ensure higher performance in the first 8 weeks and lead to a smoother weaning transition.
Fortified with Bioplex trace elements, elevated levels of Vitamin E and B Vitamins which collectively support immunity and maximise performance.
Yea-Sacc live yeast is included to aid digestion and reduce the risk of digestive upsets.
Feeding Drinagh Supreme Cooked Calf Muesli assures:
- Excellent Palatability
- Improved intake
- Enhanced performance
- Optimum Rumen Development
This feed should be made available to calves from three days of age and should be fed fresh daily.
Drinagh Supreme Cooked Calf Muesli is available in all Drinagh branches. Introductory offers apply during the Spring Agri Promotion.