Thursday, April 20, 2017

Impact of Colostrum Fed During First Two Weeks of Life

The authors' summary:

"Based on the results of this and a previous study (Berge, et al., 2009), this dried-colostrum replacement product could be used as a supplement of the milk replacer diet to decrease the occurrence of disease and the associated need for antibiotic therapy in  pre-weaned calves irrespective of their status in the transfer of passive immunity." (p. 1386)

Sounds like a great way to keep calves healthy. BUT!

Before you run out to purchase a supply of dried-colostrum replacement product you need to be aware that the cost per day per calf of product used in the study was US$12. OOPS!

Subsequent studies need to examine lower feeding rates - will rates of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/10th give similar results at much lower costs? 

One effect that is not captured in the authors' summary was the difference between control and treatment calves in average daily gain during the first two weeks of life. The average gain for all calves was 1.5 pounds per day. Both groups of calves had one or more calves that grew very well (over 2 pounds/day) or very poorly (less than 0.1 pounds/day). 

However, the colostrum supplemented calves had much more uniform growth rates. This finding stimulated me to think back to when I had the opportunity to feed transition milk (2nd, 3rd,  & 4th milkings) to my calves. 

I collected this milk twice a day. Within an hour after collecting this milk it was fed to the youngest calves - I fed 2 quarts twice daily. At the time I was impressed by the health of these calves - very low rate of scours, virtually no pneumonia treatments. At that time I did not think to observe the degree of uniformity of growth among these calves.

Unfortunately, the dairy "improved" management of fresh cows by milking them in the production parlor rather than the special-needs parlor that I had been using. That was the end of collecting transition milk. That was the end of super-healthy young calves - we went back to feeding electrolytes to scouring calves.

Transition milk feeding can give positive results. But is it practical?

This research on colostrum supplementation makes me think about the benefits of collecting and feeding transition milk. Could a dairy come up with a cost-effective way to collect, handle and feed this valuable product?

Chamorro, M.F., and Others, "Evaluation of the effects of colostrum replacer supplementation of the milk replacer raiton on the occurrence of disease, antibiotic therapy, and performance of pre-weaned dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science, 100:1378-1387 February, 2017

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