Colostrum, The Right Start for Beef Calves
Allan Chestnut, Ph.D.,
Vigortone Technical Service Nutritionist
The newborn calf’s blood is devoid of antibodies for
disease protection, and it is not able to produce significant quantities of
antibodies until several weeks of age. Therefore, the young calf is totally
dependent on maternal antibodies. Maternal antibodies can be transferred to the
calf via colostrum only within the first 24 hours after birth.
When a calf is born, it has the
ability to absorb large protein molecules across the intestinal wall into the
blood system. However, the intestinal wall rapidly changes after birth so the
calf’s ability to absorb intact Ig drops to almost zero by 24 hours after
birth. Therefore, it
is critical for the calf to consume colostrum as soon as possible after birth. The concentration of IgG circulating in a calf’s blood system to
protect it from disease the first few weeks of life is dependent on these
concentration of IgG in colostrum
amount of colostrum consumed
quickly after birth the colostrum is consumed.
The generally accepted recommendation for beef calves is to
consume good quality colostrum within two hours after birth.
How Much IgG Does A Calf Need?
A blood serum concentration of 10 g IgG/L serum is
considered minimal for disease protection. Failure
of Passive Transfer (FPT) is the term used to define the condition of
calves with less than 10 g IgG/L serum. To avoid FPT an average size calf must
consume 100 g of IgG within a few hours after birth. This is based on the
assumption that an 88 pound calf’s body contains 3.5 L of serum, and 35% of
the IgG ingested is absorbed across the intestinal wall.
Consequences Of FPT
Research at the Clay Center, Nebraska, USDA experiment
station compared beef calves with adequate serum IgG concentrations to those
with inadequate passive immunity. Calves with FPT were 6.4 times more likely to
be sick within the first 4 weeks of life and 5.4 times more likely to die before
weaning. Also, weaning weights of calves with FPT were 35 pounds less than
calves with adequate passive immunity.
Reasons For FPT
When a calf is not able to nurse a healthy cow within two
hours after birth, it will likely experience FPT. This may be because the cow
died during parturition, was slow in recovering from parturition due to
injury/illness, or refused to allow the calf to nurse. Heifers generally have a
lower IgG content in their colostrum and their calves also are more likely to
experience FPT, even if they nurse. In these situations providing a colostrum
replacement to the calf can reap profitable returns later.
Selecting A Colostrum Replacement
Products sold as colostrum replacements will contain at
least 100 g of IgG/dose. Less expensive colostrum supplements are also sold, but
these products contain only 30 to 50 g IgG/dose. The source of IgG in colostrum
replacements may be from dried bovine colostrum, extracted from blood serum, or
extracted from whey. The advantage of dried bovine colostrum is that it contains
other antimicrobial compounds and growth factors in addition to IgG. Some
colostrum products also contain probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria (LAB).
While LAB may be beneficial to the intestinal health of older calves, these
bacteria will be absorbed into the bloodstream of newborn calves along with the
other large protein molecules. It is not desirable to have LAB absorbed into the
calf’s blood system.
Rite Start Complete
Vigortone is proud to offer Rite Start Complete. Rite
Start Complete is a colostrum replacement consisting of dried bovine colostrum
containing a minimum of 100 g IgG/dose. Rite Start Complete colostrum is
collected only from carefully chosen dairies and is processed under the same
strict conditions as product used for human consumption. The contents of a 1
pound packet of Rite Start Complete dissolved in 2 quarts of warm water and
given to a newborn calf will insure adequate passive immunity for the calf to
have a healthy and profitable start in life.
A brochure on Rite Start Complete for beef calves is now
available through Vigortone Customer Service at 1-800-553-4900.
article was published in the January 2005 edition of Vigortone's Bunk, Bull &
Business newsletter.For more information, please call
us at 1-800-553-1712 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.