Colostrum feeding schedule for calves
The first 24 hours are crucial for development of the immunity of the newborn calf. Calves must receive a considerable volume of colostrum within an hour of calving. The Sprayfo advice for colostrum feeding in the first 3 days is shown below.
Within an hour of calving
The first colostrum feed will determine the calf's resistance to disease in the first weeks of its life. This probably makes it the most important meal the animal will ever have. The absorption capacity for antibodies is highest in calves during that first hour after birth, and decreases with each passing hour. The first feed is all about speed, quality, volume and temperature. Sprayfo advises:
- 4 litres of colostrum within 1 hour of calving.
- the quality of the colostrum must be checked for the concentration of antibodies (colostrum meter) and purity (optical).
- colostrum temperature of 40 degrees, as close as possible to the calf's body temperature.
Within 24 hours
After a good first feed, the calf can cope for a while. The second feed should be given at least 12 hours after the first. If the calf has drunk 4 litres in its first feed, approximately 2 litres of colostrum will suffice as a second feed. Do not force calves when giving the second feed: 4 to 6 litres is sufficient on day one. From the second feed on, you can use mixed colostrum from healthy cows.
Days 2 and 3
On days two and three, feed 2 times 3 litres of transition milk (the milk following the colostrum which is not accepted for factory processing). This should preferably be given using a rearing bucket with the teat at 70 cm height. In the first days in particular, the sucking action of the calf has a positive effect on digestion of the milk, the reticular groove reflex and the enzyme production (thanks to the production of extra saliva).
This milk must also have a temperature of around 40 degrees. It is therefore important that the calf drinks this milk quickly, rather than a puddle of cold milk being left in the bucket for hours.