Calving and Colostrum

Producer Question from 2012

Q.  How soon after calving and how much colostrum should a calf get especially after being part of a difficult birth? (April 3, 2012)

A.  Calves born after dystocia are at a high risk of failing to receive adequate immunoglobulin by natural suckling because of greatly decreased colostrum intake. Calves that are born to a prolonged stage II of parturition very often suffers from severe respiratory acidosis. Acidotic calves are less efficient at absorbing colostral immunoglobulin even if artificially fed colostrum, therefore effort should be made to provide weak newborn calves with the best source of colostrum available via bottle suckling or tube feeding.

The amount of immunoglobulin ingested is also a major determinant of final serum immunoglobulin concentration. A practical "rule-of-thumb" is to feed 5 to 6% of the calf's body weight within the first 6 hours and repeat the feeding when the calf is about 12 hours old. For an 80 pound calf, this will equate to approximately 2 quarts of colostrum per feeding.

Dr. Rick Rasby Dr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
Animal Science, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE