California State University research suggests there are major variations in colostrum antibody concentrations and bacteria levels on farm.

Researchers collected colostrum samples from seven central California dairies. Herd size ranged from 800 to 4,000 cows. The researchers collected the samples prior to first feeding. Three of the seven dairies added a colostrum supplement to the maternal colostrum. On those dairies, researchers collected one sample before adding the supplement and one sample after supplementation.

Here are some key findings from the study:

  • Average IgG concentration of colostrum fed was 35.96 mg/ml, with a range of 0.45 to 114.94 mg/ml.
  • Individual farm average IgG concentrations varied from 21.2 to 47.21 mg/ml.
  • On the three dairies that supplemented colostrum, average IgG concentrations before and after supplementation was: 45.39 and 47.21 mg/ml, 32.13 and 35.39 mg/ml, and 27.2 and 37.07 mg/ml, respectively.
  • Bacterial levels in the colostrum samples ranged from 13,420 to about 2.2 million colony forming units per milliliter (cfu/ml.)
  • A total of 41 out of 234 (~18 percent) samples of the non-supplemented colostrum were considered contaminated with bacteria (levels exceeded 100,000 cfu/ml.)
  • A total of 179 out of 312 (~57 percent) samples of the supplemented colostrum were contaminated with bacteria (levels exceeded 100,000 cfu/ml.)
  • About 220 (~40 percent) of the 546 calves in the study were fed contaminated colostrum.

The research suggests there is certainly room for improvement in the management of colostrum fed on-farm.

The research was presented at the 2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science.

Learn more about good colostrum management and goals for bacterial contamination of colostrum in the Gold Standards I.

Study finds major flaws in colostrum management