Don't cut corners with colostrum

Calves at White Carr Holsteins, Lancashire certainly benefit from quality colostrum. Ensuring adequate intakes of colostrum will give calves better immune protection and the best possible start in life, and this is the goal of David Noblet, herd manager at Tommy Cowell’s farm.

“We measure the quality of all the colostrum with a refractometer. This is all recorded and we know what is good and what is not so good. “When the calf is born, we ensure it drinks at least three litres of colostrum of known quality within six hours and another feed within 8 hours,” he continues.

“Sometimes we will mix very good material with lower quality to make a mix that meets our standards.” The refractometer costs less than £30 and a small sample of the colostrum is placed on the viewing area. Using natural light, a reading can be taken and anything over 22 is considered of high enough quality to be used straight away but above 26 for freezing.

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“It is more simple than using a colostrometer as we only need a very small amount to test, and it is less messy. We also feel it is more accurate and gives an actual number we can record.” It is a view shared by Professor Jud Heinrichs, from Penn State University, who emphasised the importance of good colostrum management at a recent series of meetings with Massey Feeds. As well as highlighting the benefits of only feeding good colostrum he was keen to have three things recorded on any frozen stock:

  1. The cow number, in case she tests positive for Johne’s and the colostrum can then be discarded.
  2. The date of collection, in order to ensure a consistent turnover of stock
  3. The actual colostrum quality reading.
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