Feeding colostrums can save calves

DAIRY CALVES are born without antibodies to protect them from diseases. At birth, the cow passes these antibodies to the calf through the colostrums. Colostrum contains the antibodies in the form of immunoglobulins which provide resistance.

First milking colostrums, contains protective antibodies or immunoglobulins. Adequate and timely consumption of colostrums by the calf is important to prevent mortality.

For maximal protective effect, colostrums should be fed at birth. Two primary factors are involved: Loss of absorptive sites within 24 hours after birth, absorption of colostral immunoglobulins by calf is not possible thereafter and simultaneous bacterial colonization of the intestine.

The ability of the colostral immunoglobulins to cross from the intestine into the blood stream begins to decrease, as every hour passes after birth.

Hence the first feeding of colostrums is done within half-an-hour after calving. A second feeding of first milking colostrums of the same amount should be given within 12 hours after birth.

When colostrums are being absorbed, bacteria also enter the blood stream. The colostrums must enter the blood before the bacteria gain entry.

The amount of colostrums fed is based on the size of the calf. Big calves need more. The minimum amount to feed at the first feeding is at least one litre of first milking colostrums for smaller calves, however, normal or large size calves should get around 1.5 to 2 litres.

On a body weight basis, calves should get around 10 per cent of their body weight at the first feeding.

The amount of immunoglobulins determines the quality of the colostrums. First milking colostrums usually is of higher quality than second milking. Second milking is better than third.

Older cows usually have higher quality colostrums than heifers calving for the first time. Cows with large volumes of colostrums may have poor quality colostrums. Dry cow vaccinations improve the colostrums quality.

Since 40 per cent of the calves left of its own with the dam may not get enough antibodies, we should help the calf to suckle.

Colostrum has 18 per cent proteins as against 3.5 per cent in normal milk. Colostrum acts as a laxative and helps clean the intestines. At the same time, it is important to realise that colostrums cannot overcome the effects of a calf being born in a dirty environment.

Calves which are born in a manure-covered pen or which nurse an uncleaned teat, when they first stand up, will be proe to infection in spite of colostral absorption.

N. Punniamurthy and S. Satheshkumar

TANUVAS Thanjavur 613 006