Livestock farm routine: Colostrum feeding
Colostrum is the fluid (first milk) secreted by the mother’s breast through the first few days after birth.
Generally, a new-born calf should receive 5-6% of its body weight from colostrum. It is our practice to feed colostrum in the first 15-30 minutes, followed by a second dose in approximately 10-12 hours.
The calf’s gut is open in this period and slowly closes as the calf assimilates food. These are our reasons for Colostrum feeding:
- Immunity: Colostrum contains a large number of antibodies called gamma globulins. They are produced by the cow during her life to fight antigens and disease-causing organisms. Naturally, the calf depends on its mother for immunity until about 1-2 months, when its immune system has been developed.
- Nutrients: Colostrum is a great source of nutrient for the calf. It contains about 7 times the protein and twice the total solids of normal milk; this gives an early boost in portion and solid intake for the calves. It also contains high amounts of minerals and Vit A. Absorption of these helps the calf to fight diseases and increases its survivability.
- Excretion: The calf has to pass out first faeces to be healthy. Colostrum gives a laxative effect which is helpful in the expulsion of the first faeces called meconium.
When colostrum is excess, we store it by refrigeration and use it to feed other calves or orphan calves. Colostrum feeding is, however, an important routine in rearing cattle.