COLOSTRUM

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CALF AT BIRTH

At birth, one of the first things that should systematically be assessed is to make sure that the calf takes its first feed of colostrum. As a matter of fact, the calf doesn’t have any prenatal immunity at this moment, and only few energy reserves. Therefore, it is essential for its survival to receive a source of antibodies and energy, which is best transmitted through the mother’s colostrum..

The colostrum is defined as being a mixture of milk secretions and constituents of the blood serum. This mixture stockpiles in the mammary gland during the dry period and can be collected straight before or after parturition(1).
In the regulation, the colostrum is the product of milking from the first six days after calving. It is considered as milk ‘not fit for human consumption’(2) and non-marketable during the ten first days after calving.

1)Foley, J. A. & Otterby, D. E. (1978) Availability, Storage, Treatment, Composition, and Feeding Value of Surplus Colostrum: A Review. Journal of Diary Science, 61(8), 1033-1060.
2) Decree of March 25, 1924, amended and supplemented by the Decree of 4 January 1971

COMPOSITION & ROLE OF THE COLOSTRUM

This colostrum is a concentrate of energy, vitamins and proteins, which are respectively three, ten and four times higher than in the milk. It also contains trace elements, hormones and growth factors.
From a nutritional point of view, each element has its role, including:

  • Lipids and carbohydrates: for production of energy,
  • Proteins: for metabolic process, new protein synthesis,
  • Minerals and vitamins: for growth and resistance to infections.

More generally, the colostrum has a laxative function which helps with meconium expulsion. It also plays a role at the start of the digestive system establishment. But one of its main roles is the transfer of immunity to the calf.

Comparison between milk and colostrum composition
Colostrum Composition
Milk Composition

Foley, J. A. & Otterby, D. E. (1978) Availability, Storage, Treatment, Composition, and Feeding Value of Surplus Colostrum: A Review. Journal of Diary Science, 61(8), 1033-1060.
Decree of March 25, 1924, amended and supplemented by the Decree of 4 January 1971

ACTIVE VERSE PASSIVE IMMUNITY

As defined earlier, the calf doesn’t have prenatal immunity at birth. Therefore, when it drinks the colostrum, it acquires what is called a passive immunity which allows to protect itself until it acquires its own immunity: the active immunity.
During the acquisition of the active immunity, there is a sensitive window, called ‘immune gap’, and situated around 3 to 4 weeks of the calf’s life (3). This window is variable depending on the intake of colostrum, the calf itself and the farming conditions.

3) Besser TE and CC Gay, 1993. Colostral transfer of immunoglobulins to the calf. Vet Ann, 33: 53-61

IMPORTANCE OF THE COLOSTRUM INTAKE

The colostrum intake must be quick so that the passive immunity can be as efficient as possible and to protect the calf as soon as possible. But it is mainly because permeability of intestines decreases over time: 12h after birth, intestines absorb only 50% of the antibodies absorbable, and nothing after 24h.
The importance of colostrum intake is therefore immediate but is also delayed. Indeed, in both dairy and suckler farms it will have an impact on morbidity and growth, and on mortality until 6 months in dairy farms.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DAIRY & SUCKLER COLOSTRUMS

These delayed effects are also linked to the quantity of colostrum consumed, as the composition of colostrum changes from a cow to another. It is recommended that the immunoglobulin (IgG) rate provided to the calf is a minimum of 200g of IgG during colostrum intake. The colostrum of a dairy cow supplies 40 to 50g of IgG per litre of colostrum while the one from a suckler cow supplies about 100g per litre. Therefore, with only 2L of colostrum, a suckler calf reaches the minimum of IgG required, whereas a dairy calf would have to drink at least 4 L. But what about energy provided by the colostrum and the calf’s needs?
In scientific literature, there are data on supply in energy of a dairy colostrum but none on a suckler colostrum. That is why Vétalis and ENVT (Veterinary University of Toulouse) have carried out a study on 23 Charolaise breed cows in order to analyse sugar, fat, protein and IgG rates.

4) Kehoe et al, 2007. Journal of Dairy Science. Vol. 90, n° 9, pp. 4108 4116

For a 45 kg calf, born at 15°C (thermo-neutral temperature), energetical needs are of 1494 kcal according to the NRC (2001). Considering a calving at 5°C, 1138 more kcal will be needed for the calf, which makes a total of 2632 kcal. Taking into account that a suckler calf has absorbed 100% of 2L of colostrum drunk the first day, which means in the best-case scenario, it will provide 2253 kcal.
Therefore, considering the tough winter calving conditions, the fact that the natural colostrum offsets barely the minimum of the calf’s needs, and that ADG objectives are higher and higher, the risk of energetical deficit in suckler calf is important and must not be neglected.
provides 1700 kcal per 300g sachet and contains the following elements: Fat (43,9%), Sugars (32,6%) and Proteins (9,4%), thus metabolisable energy,
– Natural Vitamin C which is an energetical booster,
– Caffeine, general stimulant of the Central Nervous System,
– And aromatic susbstances as appetence factors.
Moreover, for immunity and intestinal integrity, it contains yeasts, pre and probiotics, as well as colostrum. The yeasts, of hydrolysed Saccharomyces cerevisiae, enhance renewal of the enterocytes, that are the cells having a role in the absorption of lipids (fat). The pre and probiotics will enhance colonisation of the digestive tract, while the colostrum (IBR and BVD negative, with 30% of IgG) contributes to the development of the immune system.
In case of emergency, such as caesarean or mother death, there is the ColostrumPlus Paste for Sucklers, available in syringes of 60 ml which allows to act quickly. It contains several complementary benefits to ColostrumPlus Powder for Sucklers which includes strong antioxidants (good impact on White Muscle disease), highly bioavailable and essential trace elements and a complete vitaminic pool having a good effect on brain’s cortex, metabolism and growth. Like the ColostrumPlus Powder for Sucklers, the pasty product contains fat, sugars, proteins as well as vitamin C and aromatic substances. It provides 400 kcal per syringes of 60 ml.

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* For more information, contact us : contact@vetalis-technologies.fr