Producer Question from 2015
Q: Are colostrum replacements a good alternative to give a calf if I can't get natural colostrum? (January 28, 2015)
A: Ideally, we like to see vigorous calves stand and nurse within 2 hours of birth and repeatedly nurse by the time it is 12 hours old. The ability of the calf to absorb immunoglobulins that are critical for passive immunity is greatest in the first 6 hours after birth. After this time the ability of the calf to absorb these immunoglobulins across the intestinal wall greatly decreases. In situations that could impact the quality and quantity of colostrum available to newborn calves, colostrum replacement products may need to be considered.
There are a number of colostrum replacement products commercially available today. Care should be taken in selection of the product to ensure you are getting a replacement and not a supplement. Although similar, replacements have higher concentrations of immunoglobulins(Ig), specifically IgG, than supplements and are intended to serve as the sole source when fresh colostrum is not available.
There are other nutrients such as sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals in replacements, but there can be variability in the quality and digestibility of products based on the source of these nutrients and the method of processing. Be sure to carefully read and follow the manufacturer's instructions since products may vary in how they are mixed and the number of recommended feedings.
You should consult your veterinarian to help you make a more informed purchasing decision for the colostrum replacement product that is suited best for your operation. This decision is an important one because you only get one chance to start a calf off right.
Extension Beef Cattle Veterinarian
University of Nebraska