If you measure the pool of colostrum for newborn calves and it reads under 22% on the Brix refractometer, you should:
1. Check that the colostrum you are adding to the pool for newborn calves is fresh first-milking colostrum (not mixed with days two, three and four colostrum).
2. Try to minimise the time between calving and when the colostrum is first collected from fresh cows; the antibody level declines really quickly the more time that passes.
3. Look at individual cow risk factors for poor quality colostrum; consider testing individual cow colostrum with the Brix refractometer to make sure only the best cows are selected to contribute to the pool.
4. Consider risk factors like age, breed, mastitis and milk fever as possible reasons that an individual cow is not producing colostrum readings over 22%.
5. Minimise the time between collection of first milking colostrum and feeding that colostrum to newborn calves as the antibody concentration declines in the bucket as well as in the cows udder (prior to collection).
Even if the antibody level is good, bacteria in the colostrum could be problem.
Bacteria in colostrum causes souring and spoilage. Bacteria can also block the absorption of antibodies even if there are enough antibodies in the colostrum. The samples collected from all over New Zealand last season showed that bacterial levels are very high in pooled colostrum for newborn calves. Bacteria typically come from four sources:
• the cow;
• the test bucket;
• the storage vat;
• and the feeders.
Cleaning all your feeding and storage equipment, as well as minimising contamination from the cow herself is the key to keeping colostrum clean and suitable for feeding to calves. Use hot water and detergent to rinse off the fatty residues left by colostrum and rinse off the detergent fully before using your equipment.
Once you are happy that your colostrum is the best possible quality you can achieve, consider preserving it. For further advice, talk to your Anexa FVC Vet.
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