Friday, June 22, 2018

Exploring Low Colostrum Yields

Colostrum yield data were collected from Jersey cows in a Texas herd. There were 1,143 first-lactation cows and 752 second-lactation cows and 1,003 cows of third lactation and greater (total records = 2,988)

Fact #1. Huge variation in colostrum volume among cows of all lactations
     1st lactation varied from 0 to 30.6 lbs. [17.5kg] (est. 18 quarts)
     2nd lactation varied from 0 to 53.2 lbs. [24.2kg] (est. 25 quarts)
     3rd & greater lactation varied from 0 to 58.5 lbs. [26.6kg] (est. 27 quarts)

Fact #2. No colostrum at all
     1st lactation - 3 out of 1,143 had no colostrum (0.3%)
     2nd and greater lactation - 105 out of 1,755 had no colostrum (6%)

Fact #3. Strong seasonal influence - December being the lowest volume month. Research  team suggests maybe a photoperiod influence. June-July yields were the highest.

Fact #4. Factors influencing volume but only a small amount included calving age, gender of calf, previous lactation 305ME, dry period length. Environmental factors (e.g., THI) and predigree had minor influence on volume. Note that this was only one herd in a Texas environment (2,988 Jersey cows).


1. Expect and prepare for wide variations among animals. Don't beat yourself up over the small percentage of cows with zero yields - they are going to happen. Adopt best management practices for calm and gentle animal handling to promote optimum let-down at first milking. 

2. Be prepared to take advantage of high-yielding cows - adopt best management practices for collection and storage of colostrum in excess of immediate needs. 

3. Remember that we continue to get the biggest bang for our buck when we feed enough high quality CLEAN colostrum ASAP after birth. When available and practical, second and third small feedings of colostrum in the first 24 hours do boost blood IgG levels.

4. If practical, calves benefit from feeding transition milk (that is, 2nd, 3rd and 4th milkings) - this milk can help us avoid treatments with antibiotics during the critical first two weeks of life.

Reference: Gavin, K. and Others, " Low colostrum yield in Jersey cattle and potential risk factors."
Journal of Dairy Science 101:6388-6398 June 2018.

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