The first few days of life are a high-risk time period for calves. They depend almost exclusively on colostrum from their dam to fight off early calfhood diseases. It is imperative that calves receive a timely supply of high-quality colostrum. Ideally, this should be at least 100 grams of immunoglobulin within the first 4 to 6 hours of life. However, individual production of immunoglobulins varies between cows and even between mammary gland quarters within a cow– which means that even timely feeding of colostrum may not guarantee calves will receive sufficient passive immunity.
Now, there is promising new research that offers a solution to the problem of colostrum variation between cows.
The research, published online March 21, 2016 in the Journal of Animal Science, was conducted by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland. The findings provide new information about cows that produce stellar quality and quantity of colostrum.
In particular, the researchers found that if a cow produces and transfers increased amounts of immunoglobulins into their colostrum they are likely to do so again and again – giving calves that receive colostrum from these “super moms” the best chance for a healthy start.
“Identifying cows that are superior producers of high-quality colostrum can help you better manage your colostrum program,” said study authors Drs. Josef Gross and Rupert Bruckmaier, with the University of Bern in Switzerland. “Ultimately, it can help you identify which calves may be at greater risk of passive transfer failure so you can take measures to ensure these calves receive sufficient immunoglobulins at birth.”
The article is available in open access format. View a pdf here.