We Quit Testing Our Colostrum!
This is the conversation last week on a dairy.
Me: How is your colostrum quality this past month?
Dairy: Oh, we don't have enough colostrum. We have to feed all of it. So, we quit testing our colostrum.
Me: Well, if you don't have any good quality colostrum for first feeding, can't you feed a colostrum replacer?
Dairy: No, we don't have replacer. It costs too much. We just feed whatever we have.
End of conversation.
They have a written colostrum-feeding protocol that is followed very well. They collect blood from all the two - three day-old calves. Their average blood serum total protein level for the past six months has been around 6.2mg/dl. (Industry standards are 90% at 5.2 or above, 80 % at 5.5 and above.)
But, when I scan the list of blood serum total protein values really low values keep popping up. Most often there are two or three together. This in contrast of isolated low values.
What do I conclude? Batches of really low quality colostrum are being fed to two or more calves in a row.
Here is the critical question.
Are the health and growth disadvantages associated with feeding this poor quality colostrum worth more than feeding a good quality colostrum replacer? My answer is "YES."
1. Start testing colostrum again. Use the Brix refractometer to identify the low IgG stuff.
2. For first feeding, if no good quality (Brix >22 solids) colostrum is available. use a good quality colostrum replacer that will provide 200 g of IgG (we have to be careful here because there are many products on the market that are packaged to provide only 150 g IgG).
3. For the second feeding, use whatever quality colostrum that is available. Fresh maternal colostrum has a lot of other stuff in addition to antibodies that will benefit the calves. (All the calves receive 6 quarts of colostrum during the first 24 hours.) When practical use the lower quality colostrum for feeding calves on the second day, too. It is a great energy source especially during cold weather months.
Bottom line: Continue to test colostrum quality. We can make better management decisions knowing quality than just blindly feeding "whatever we have."