Since calves are born without immunity against disease, they need colostrum to maintain health and ward of infections. And since colostrum delivery affects the health, well-being and productivity of dairy calves for their entire lives, we’ve worked colostrum management into our Gold Standards III. Those guidelines are as follows: 

Colostrum quality

  • Dry-cow management procedures should include a vaccination protocol that is developed with the herd veterinarian and is appropriate to local conditions. Proper nutritional balance for dry cows — including energy, protein, vitamins and minerals — is critical.
  • Adequate space for resting, eating and drinking water is essential for good pre-fresh cow health.

Colostrum harvesting

  • Harvesting procedures should result in clean, wholesome colostrum that is free of infectious pathogens and low in bacteria.

Colostrum handling and feeding

  • Handling procedures should promote clean colostrum with high antibody concentrations.
  • Feeding procedures for newborn calves should be based on the biology of antibody absorption (feeding clean, high-quality colostrum equaling a minimum of 10 percent of body weight in the first two hours of life).
  • In cases in which clean, high-quality maternal colostrum is not available, feed commercial colostrum replacer equivalent to maternal colostrum. For example, if the farm feeds 4 quarts of colostrum, feed 200 grams of IgG from colostrum replacer.
  • If using an esophageal tube feeder to ensure that a calf receives adequate colostrum, this delivery method should be performed only by trained staff.
  • Colostrum collection, handling and feeding equipment should be cleaned after each use.

Colostrum collection, handling and feeding should result in adequate levels of immunity for the environment within which the calves are being raised. This can be assessed by how well the calves meet the standards for mortality, morbidity and growth described in the Gold Standards I. More specific information on colostrum management can be found in the Gold Standards I.