The onset of spring brings with it the influx of the next generation of milking cows in our herds.
Calves born over the next few weeks will calve down in February 2026, and become the mature stalwart cows of 2029, and the influence we have on the beginning of their lives will be long felt regarding longevity, milk production and the herd’s overall health and wellbeing.
Colostrum is (still) King
Year-on-year we discuss, read and write about 3-2-1 rules, and how important receiving adequate colostrum is. Yet conversations still arise around how best to avoid scour in calf sheds, anti-scour remedies and as we face into another spring, a back to basics approach needs to be taken with colostrum.
It is important to remember that the calf’s first opportunity for infection is through its navel or mouth. Therefore, teats, the cow’s underbelly, and contact with the calving pen bedding become a source of infection for a new-born calf. Prolonged time spent in the calving areas are often a key issue with disease transfer in herds.
All feed equipment must be disinfected before colostrum is collected/fed. Dirt contamination of colostrum is known to have a negative effect on passive transfer and therefore cleanliness of the collection process is vital.
Storage is also important – it’s an all-too-common sight to see buckets of colostrum in the parlour/dairy – and where ambient conditions arise, bacterial counts can double every 20 minutes.
A dam-to-calf system is obviously the ideal. However, during a compact calving period this can sometimes be difficult to obtain in every instance. It’s very important to remember that colostrum quality can vary dramatically between cows. Where pooling occurs, at the very least, colostrum must be brix tested prior to pooling to avoid dilution with poor colostrum.
Factors that affect colostrum quality are short dry periods, parity, high yielders (dilution effect) and poor dry cow nutrition. Vaccination of the dam is also a key consideration on farm to help avoid scour outbreaks. However, passive transfer from the vaccine only occurs from dam-calf via colostrum and transition milk so all of the above still applies.
Research has shown where passive transfer is 100% successful in herds mortality rates of <5% are achievable, in stark comparison where passive transfer of just 85-90% is achieved, calf mortality rates can increase to ~8%. Treat colostrum with the respect and attention it deserves.
For further advice, contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.