It is best to check ten calves before drawing conclusions about the farm’s colostrum program. Individual animals can sometimes be abnormal for a variety of reasons.
Research out of California Polytechnic State University, by Kevin McEvilly, suggests that producers need to also beware of very high Brix Refractometer readings. Calf dehydration may cause the test to show a high level of protein concentration and a false assurance of successful passive transfer. To test for dehydration, producers should look for dry nose, mouth and sunken eyes. Pulling up a fold of skin on the neck (tent test) and quickly releasing it is a good assessment of dehydration. Well hydrated calves’ skin will immediately return to its previous position. Skin that takes a few second to return to the original position would indicate that the calf is dehydrated.
Feeding calves high quality colostrum in a timely way greatly impacts the future health of calves. The Brix Refractometer tool is now available for producers to use on-farm to assess both colostrum quality and failure or success of passive transfer of immunity in calves. Both should allow producers to continue to improve their colostrum management program and ultimately improve the health of their calves and farm profitability.