Colostrum management protocol for calves


Calves are born with under developed immune systems; they have no antibodies to fight infection and so are very vulnerable to disease. Good colostrum management is of vital importance to the calf, especially where infection pressure is high. ZLTO has developed a colostrum management protocol – here are a few tips.

  • Milk the cow immediately after birth. The first colostrum is of the very best quality.
  • Measure the quality of the colostrum to determine the amount of antibodies using a colostrometer or hydrometer. Discard colostrum with quality <50 g/L. This gives you certainty about the amount of antibodies in the colostrum rather than guessing from appearance.
  • Make sure that the colostrum and feeding equipment is clean. Dirt contains bacteria and will reduce the effect of the antibodies in the colostrum.
  • Within 1 hour after birth, give the calf 4 litres (10% of body weight if known) of colostrum of around 40 degrees Celsius. The quicker the colostrum is given after birth the more antibodies the calf can absorb through its gut.
  • Preferably use a teat when administering colostrum. This provides a sucking reflex which stimulates the intestinal function.
  • Freeze remaining colostrum for reserves at a constant temperature of -18 degrees. Label colostrum with dam number and date and discard colostrum from Johnes positive cows.
  • The second milking for a second colostrum feed should take place 12 to 18 hours after birth to ensure that the calf has absorbed enough antibodies.
  • Discuss the colostrum protocol with the ZLTO advisor or your veterinarian.

Good colostrum management ensures a good start for the calf and means less disease, which reduces the need for use of antibiotics. Calves are the future of the herd and deserve care and attention.