We all know feeding the right amount of good-quality colostrum as fast as possible is critically important to the well-being of the calf not only for today, but for its lifetime as well. We also know it's one of the hardest tasks to manage. Despite our best intentions, breakdowns in colostrum management occur. 

Following are some of the most common problem areas and suggestions for solving them. Consult the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards for additional management tips.

Lack of process

  •  Written set of steps of how colostrum will be fed 
  • Measure serum total proteins on all or a subset of calves
  • Train/change to improve

  Lack of training

  •  Don't assume workers will "figure it out"
  • Document steps in a Standard Operating Procedure
  • Use it - train with it
  • Review it
  • Manage it

IgG variation 

  • Colostrum supplements can add IgG to low IgG colostrum
    - Fed with or in addition to maternal colostrum
    - Fast, convenient
  • Use colostrum from your colostrum bank
    - Cheaper than supplements
    - More time, labor
  • Evaluate your dry cow program to look for ways to improve colostrum quality

Feeding enough

  • Calves should consume 150-200 g of IgG in the first 24 hours to achieve about 10 g/L of IgG
  • Green: 50 g/L x 4 L = 200 g
  • Yellow: 25 g/L x 4 L = 100 g - need to supplement
  • Red: 15 g/L x 4 L = 60 g - need to supplement or replace

Nutrient variation

  • "Yellow or red" colostrum on colostrometer will generally be low in nutrients also
  • Colostrum supplements can increase nutrient content
  • Or, use colostrum from colostrum bank

Bacterial contamination

  • Feed, fridge or freeze
    - Do it fast
    - Quick chill large quantities
  • Pasteurize
    - Reduce bacterial counts
    - Follow protocol to ensure IgG retained
  • Replace
    - Cost effective if colostrum is contaminated / unavailable
    - Late nights, heifers, poor colostrum quality
    - 100+ g/IgG per dose

Calf's ability to absorb IgG

  • Dry cows matter!
    - Proper nutrition (vitamins/minerals)
    - Minimize stress
    - Calving ease 
  • Calving difficulties
  • Measure total protein to identify problem calves

Source: Dairy Calf and Heifer Association