Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Colostrum (Farmer Factsheet)

Contributor(s): Ash Phipps, XLVets , Adam Dunstan-Martin

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  • Colostrum is the first “milk” produced by the cow at the time of calving.
  • Cows begin to produce colostrum several weeks before calving and stop producing colostrum once they have calved. Therefore there is a small window of time in which to obtain colostrum from the cow and ensure that the calf receive it!
  • Colostrum contains antibodies (immunoglobulins) (IgG, IgA and IgM) that help protect the calf from diseases in the first few weeks of life until the calf is able to produce its own antibodies.
  • Antibody (Immunoglobulin) IgG is considered the most important antibody.
  • Colostrum also contains white blood cells, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin B12), minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, cobalt and selenium), antimicrobial factors, ash and growth factors, which are important for calf health.
Image courtesy of Ash Phipps.
Image shows a Brix refractometer, which may be used to assess colostrum.

The importance of colostrum

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Timing of colostrum supplementation and volume fed

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Method of colostrum feeding

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Consequence of inadequate colostrum intake

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Quality of colostrum

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Factors that may affect the calf’s ability to absorb antibodies

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Factors affecting the quality of colostrum

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Storage and handling of colostrum

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Pasteurization of colostrum

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Types of available colostrum

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