Maximizing passive immunity

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Newborn calves must rely on the immune protection they receive from colostrum until their own immune system starts to function at around 6 weeks of age. Dr. Kimberly Morrill, Cornell University Extension Dairy Specialist, says it is important to deliver high-quality colostrum to every newborn calf within the first hours of life. Specifically:

  • Calves should receive their first feeding of high-quality colostrum within 4 hours of birth.
  • The longer you wait, the less IgG the calf is able to absorb.
  • The less IgG the calf absorbs, the more susceptible it is to disease pathogens, such as those that cause scours and pneumonia.
  • Calves should receive a minimum of 10% of their bodyweight in colostrum within the first 4 hours of life.

Morril’s additional guidelines on colostrum quality and cleanliness can be found here.


Source: Cornell University Cooperative Extension dairy fact sheet, by Kimberly Morrill, PhD.

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