Research has shown that feeding high quality colostrum at the correct time and with sufficient quantity is a key determinant of successful calf rearing. This is assessed both in terms of a calf health and survival e.g. increased DLWG, feed efficiency, reduced age at first calving and increased milk production.

Achieving success with colostrum feeding
As part of the knowledge transfer process at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus located at Antrim, Northern Ireland, the implementation of applied science along with practical considerations relating to colostrum feeding are imparted to both students and farmers.

Minimising the contamination of colostrum by bacteria is essential, so key aspects discussed were hygiene of the udder i.e. a well bedded calving pen, clean hands/gloves and the sanitising of all utensils associated with the collection and transfer of colostrum.

It is well established through research that in order to achieve successful passive transfer of colostrum in calves’, three key area’s need to be addressed, namely, the three Q’s: quantity, quickly and quality. For example, in relation to quantity, research from AFBI found that calves fed 5% of body weight in colostrum compared to 10% had increased cases and treatments for enteric infections i.e. scour, along with significantly lower serum IgG levels.

However, in order to achieve the three Q’s, consideration must be given to the infrastructure
within the calving area.

As part of the dairy knowledge transfer open days at CAFRE during January 2018, these practical aspects were discussed with over 1000 farmers. Management practices such as, milking colostrum from post calving cows both quickly and safely were demonstrated through the use of a specialist calving gate and also the use of a portable milking machines.


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