Giving colostrum with a colostrum feeder works best
Newborn calves need a large volume of quality colostrum shortly after calving. It is a less well-known fact, however, that the method of feeding the colostrum can greatly affect the calf's immunity development. Research shows that colostrum works most effectively when fed using a colostrum feeder.
Calves are born with no resistance to disease. Colostrum from the mother is essential in order to develop the so-called passive immunity for protection during the first few weeks of life. Another cow's colostrum can sometimes be better for the calf.
The degree of immunity is determined by checking the IgG (Immunoglobulin type G) in the calf's blood. If the IgG is too low, something has gone wrong in the transfer of immunoglobulin via the colostrum. This is known as Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). Possible causes of FPT are delayed colostrum intake, poor quality colostrum or insufficient colostrum.
Research into relationship between colostrum and immunity in calves
In 2007, the National Animal Health Monitor System conducted extensive research in the United States, to determine what percentage of calves in the 1 to 7 days age group had sufficient antibodies in their bloodstream (publication J.A. Beam et al in 2009). The study also looked at the effect of the method of feeding colostrum on the development of antibodies.
In this study, 1816 blood samples were analysed from calves at 394 farms in 17 states. The samples were taken from healthy calves who had been fed colostrum in the first days of their life.
Despite being fed the colostrum, more than 19 percent of the calves had too low an IgG value. This seems to be a reasonable result. However, the study only tested calves that according to the farmer had been given enough colostrum and were healthy. Yet one in five had an antibodies deficiency.
More colostrum, better immunity
The study clearly shows a relationship between the amount of colostrum fed and the level of antibodies in the calves:
69% calves had received less than 3.8 litres of colostrum within 4 hours of calving. The percentage with too low an IgG in this group was 18.6%. 31% calves had received more than 3.8 litres of colostrum within 4 hours of calving. In this group, the percentage with too low an IgG was 3.6%.
Conclusion: larger volumes of colostrum reduce the number of calves with too little resistance by 27%. More colostrum therefore equals more immunity.
Manual supply of colostrum to calves boosts immunity
A second important conclusion was that the manual supply of colostrum is more effective than having the calf drink from its mother. One quarter of the calves in the study drank from the cow. In this group, 26% had too low an IgG score. In the group of hand-fed calves, only 17% had too little immunity.
Colostrum feeder the best solution for calves
Finally, the way in which colostrum is supplied manually was examined. The study showed the majority of the calves (82%) to be fed colostrum using a colostrum bottle feeder, and that this supply method was the most effective. The percentage of calves with too little immunity is 16% in this group, considerably lower than for tube feeding, for example. The reason a feeder works better is probably that it triggers salivation through the sucking action. The combination of sucking and salivation activates the digestive system, ensuring a higher uptake of antibodies.
Sprayfo advises feeding at least 4 litres of colostrum as soon as possible after calving, preferably in the first hour. This is the best way of providing calves with a healthy dose of antibodies, therefore giving them a good start.
For the full colostrum protocol for the 1st day and feeding in the first 3 days, check the article: