20 May 2022

Longford Leader Farming: Colostrum – Liquid Gold

Farmers detail roadmap to easier and more enjoyable farming

Colostrum quality can be influenced by the nutrition of the cow and also poor collection and storage techniques

Ireland has close to 2.5 million cows (both dairy and suckler) the vast majority of which will calve in the next few months.

It is the busiest time of the year by far on farms and probably one of the most dangerous giving the potential aggressive nature of animals at this time.

Given the workload, it is important to do basic things right in order to prevent further issues later in the spring in relation to calf health.

The provision of adequate colostrum in appropriate quantities is probably the single most effective means of keeping new born calves healthy and enables them to fight infection and disease.

A calf is born without any immunity and it depends on the absorption of antibodies from colostrum to gain immunity.

The ability of the calf to absorb antibodies decreases every hour after birth and ceases at approximately 24 hours old.
Therefore giving colostrum to a calf that is 2 days old is of limited benefit. Colostrum from the first milking is of highest quality. Colostrum from subsequent milkings is deemed transition milk and is substantially lower in antibody concentration.

The simple 123 rule of feeding colostrum is as follows;

1. Feed from the first milking

2. Feed within two hours of birth

3. Feed 3 litres of clean, good quality colostrum.

In the case of Suckler cows it is important that the calf is observed sucking the mother within the first couple of hours of birth.
If the cow has inadequate supply it is important to make alternate arrangements to supplement the calf. Most dairy cows will have an adequate amount.

Not all colostrum is of adequate quality. Colostrum quality can be influenced by the nutrition of the cow and also poor collection and storage techniques.

Cows calving in good condition receiving adequate minerals pre calving should have good quality colostrum.

Surplus colostrum, mainly collected from dairy cows should be collected hygienically and stored appropriately in a fridge (<48 hours) or frozen (up to 12 months).

Apart from colostrum the importance of hygiene and appropriate housing cannot be over emphasised. Wishing you a healthy and safe calving season!!

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), You can find us on Facebook @Teagasc roscommonlongford and twitter @teagascRNLD. Email; Roscommon

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