For the Future of Farming


Colostrum quality and quantity impact on calf immunity

Colostrum quality and quantity impact on calf immunity

Research in the UK and across Europe has shed new light on just how close the relationship is between the transition diet and colostrum yield and quality.

The 2015 ForFarmers study, involving 1,900 cows and 1,500 calves in the UK, Germany and Netherlands, showed that almost 40% of cows were producing fewer than three litres of colostrum at their first milking. It also revealed that 20% of cows produced colostrum of poor quality (with fewer than 50g immunoglobulins per litre), in that first milking.

The study looked closely at transition cow nutrition, focusing on crude protein (CP) levels in the close-up diet of the cows and what effect, if any, it had on the calf. Calves from cows with less than 12% CP in the close-up diet were shown to have a higher risk of failure of passive transfer of IgG (calves were shown to have less than 10 mg/ml serum IgG), compared to those cows fed between 12% and 14% CP and those fed more than 14%.

“If you have a nutrition programme for the final three weeks of the transition period, it boosts the number of antibodies in the calf’s blood and increases the immunity of the calf, via the high quality colostrum it receives and better development of the calf in late gestation,” says ForFarmer’ Nick Berni.