First 24 hours crucial for calves
The first 24 hours is very crucial for calves since they are born without immunity against disease. Good colostrum management is essential to maintain health and prevent infections.
Colostrum is the first secretion produced by the mammary gland after calving. Good quality colostrum is thick and creamy in appearance. It is rich in fat and protein and contains immunity elements. Colostrum provides the disease fighting antibodies calves are born without.
The cow's teats and udder should be washed before collecting. Likewise, it is important to wash your hands before the collection process. Clean and disinfect colostrum collection equipment, feeding bottles, nipples, or tubes after each use.
Once the colostrum is collected, it needs to be fed to the calf immediately after birth. Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards recommends colostrum feeding equaling 10 percent of body weight in the first 4 hours of life.
A calf's ability to absorb antibodies decreases with each passing hour after birth. As a result, colostrum delivery can affect the health and productivity of dairy calves for their entire life.
DCHA Gold Standards III recommends having a trained staff member perform esophageal tube feeding, if this is the method being used.
Colostrum collection, handling and feeding should result in adequate levels of immunity for the environment which the calves are being reared. This can be assessed by how well the calves meet the standards for mortality, morbidity and growth described in the DCHA Gold Standards I.