Colostrum helps beef calves build their immune systems

Calves that don’t ingest enough high-quality colostrum soon after birth are three times more likely to get sick

By Travis Peardon

Once again calving season is upon us. Did you know newborn calves do not have a fully developed immune system when they are born?

Colostrum intake for newborns, therefore, is critical. Colostrum is the first milk available to a newborn calf; it is rich in proteins and antibodies. The main antibody in colostrum is called immunoglobulin G (IgG). Antibodies are required for immune function and disease resistance. It’s vital to a good start on building an effective immune system.

Calves should consume five to six per cent of their body weight in colostrum within the first six hours of life, and that amount again within the next six hours of life. It is critical that the calf nurse and receive colostrum within the first 12 hours of its life because after 24 hours, the calf’s digestive system is not able to absorb the large proteins and antibodies in the colostrum.

For more on this story, please see the Mar. 2 print edition of The Cross Roads. calves

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