Do your calves get quality colostrum?


PORTLAND, Maine — As spring calving season approaches, it is vital calves receive adequate immunity at birth. Because calves are born without an active immune system, they rely on the consumption of antibodies from colostrum for protection against scours and pneumonia.

When the calf consumes colostrum, these maternal-derived antibodies, or immunoglobulins (IgG), are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. This process is called passive transfer.


Several factors, including reduced colostrum quality, delayed nursing and cold stress, can inhibit successful passive transfer and lead to low blood serum antibody concentrations in calves.

Estimates suggest failure of passive transfer is common and may be occurring in as many as one-third of beef calves in North America.

“This can be problematic to both calf health and performance,” said Bobbi Brockmann, director of sales and marketing with ImmuCell Corporation.

Calves that do not consume high-quality colostrum are 6 times more likely to get sick during the first weeks of life compared to calves that consumed enough colostrum, Brockmann claimed.

Furthermore, low blood serum IgG concentrations (less than 1,000 mg/dL) have been associated with higher death loss and decreased performance. This can hurt profitability by increasing treatment costs and reducing weight gains.

Supplemental protection

One solution producers can use to protect their spring calf crop is to provide supplemental immune protection to their newborn calves immediately after birth.

“This can be done by complementing the colostrum your cows produce with USDA-approved antibody products,” said Brockmann.

Concentrated antibody products can be fed to calves at the same time as colostrum and go to the gut to immediately bind and neutralize diarrhea-causing agents, while also being absorbed into the bloodstream for extended immune protection.

Antibody products are available in bolus, gel and powder forms. They also are included in some colostrum replacer and supplement formulas for added value.

“Antibody products can protect a producer’s genetic investment by providing immediate immune protection to the calf,” said Brockmann.

“Concentrated antibody products also provide immunity against specific pathogens such as E. coli and coronavirus so the calf receives the best start possible and can maximize their genetic potential.”

For more information ask a veterinary professional.


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