Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We feed colostrum for first three days
 
This statement was made by a calf care person in southern Quebec province of Canada where I was leading a meeting on calf management. I followed up by asking her to describe in detail how she does this. 
 
She explained how they milk the dam into a catch bucket twice daily for the first three days and then her milk goes into the tank. The calf is fed from the catch bucket after each of these first six milkings. So, here is the question: Is she feeding colostrum for the first three days?  

You may recall these facts about solids, total protein and immunoglobulin (IgG) as we move from milking to milking:

Milking                               1                  2                 3                 Milk
Solids                                 23.9%          17.9%        14.1%          12.5%
Total Protein                      14.0%            8.4%         5.1%             3.2%
IgG                                      3.2%            2.5%         1.5%             0.06%
(per Davis and Drackley, 1998)

So, even by the 3rd milking she was feeding close to regular milk in terms of total solids and total protein. The benefit of this practice is not improve nutrition. There is, however, a measurable difference in IgG content especially compared to regular milk - these extra antibodies can provide surface immunity in the small intestine for the first three days - good.

As a group we agreed this is a good practice - but only if the milk is clean (that is, low in bacteria). She assured us that her stainless steel catch bucket was clean enough to drink out of. I praised her for handling this milk - she milked the cow and promptly fed the calf - no waiting.

That discussion went into a description of how rapidly coliform bacteria can multiply in warm milk (every 20 minutes). And, why it is so important to feed raw milk like this at least within 30 minutes after it is collected if one is to avoid high bacteria counts. 

Great discussion. Dairy farmers in Quebec (at least the ones that come to meetings) are great.

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