Colostrum management is a part of the Gold Standards for calf and heifer raising released earlier this year by the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA).

To help reach these standards, Sam Leadley, calf-care specialist with Attica (N.Y.) Veterinary Associates, offers these comments.

“The DCHA Gold Standards promotes feeding plenty of high-quality colostrum as soon after birth as practical. It is essential to remember that colostrum needs to have a low bacteria count. "Clean" is not optional; it is a necessity.

“Volume is easy to measure -- use a nursing bottle. Clean is harder to estimate. One of the best ways is to take samples and have them cultured. "As-fed" samples capture all of the opportunities for inoculation and growth that occur between the cow and the calf. These samples are taken directly from either the nipple of a nursing bottle or the end of the probe of a tube feeder.

“Culturing is a lab process that takes at least two days -- 48 hours in an incubator. Incubated plates can be examined to determine both the kinds of bacteria present (speciation) and the numbers of each (quantification).

“Most states have a lab that will do this. Also, a number of veterinary clinics have this capability. The cost will vary depending on the individual lab.

“The "Clean" threshold for good quality colostrum is less than 100,000 cfu/ml standard or total plate count. While not specified in the Gold Standards, the culture sample should be less than 10,000 cfu/ml total coliforms.

“If your sample counts are over the thresholds mentioned above, take a look at the list, "Ten Points to Reduce Colostrum Contamination," in the Calf Facts section at”

For more information on the DCHA Gold Standards, click here.

Source: Dairy Calf and Heifer Association