Cow Tales: Udder gold | TSLN.com

Cow Tales: Udder gold

Kenny Barrett Jr., DVM, MS

The developing calf seems to have it made within the warm confines of the uterus. It is protected from the environmental extremes outside and all of its nutrition is provided. However, because of the way the calf attaches to the uterus to be nourished, they receive no antibodies from their dam unlike some other mammals. Antibodies are the immune proteins produced by the immune system to ward off pathogenic invaders and the diseases they cause. The calf is born without these antibodies from the cow. However, the dam does provide the gift of antibodies in her colostrum.

Colostrum is the “first milk” produced by mammals immediately after giving birth. This white gold is similar to milk, but is packed with proteins, cells, signaling molecules, enzymes and sugars beneficial to the health and wellbeing of the calf. Think of it as the “Wheaties” to start life out right. It has the consistency of honey in January and is a sweet addition to the developing immune system of the newborn lucky enough to consume it. The antibodies in this sweet nectar are absorbed whole immediately after birth. “Gut closure” begins with the first meal and is essentially complete by twenty-four hours. Very few antibodies are absorbed intact, retaining there activity, after the first day. Time is of the essence.

Studies indicate that up to one in three calves don’t consume enough colostrum in the first day of life. These calves tend to have weaker immune systems and are smaller at weaning. In fact, some data would suggest they are up to 10 times more likely to become sick, five times more likely to die, and up to 35 pounds lighter at weaning. There is no way to visually determine which calves suffer from lack of adequate colostrum. Therefore, ranchers need to focus precious time resources on calves most at risk.

Cow-related risk factors include: age of the dam, mothering instinct or lack thereof, udder conformation, udder health and vaccination status. Two-year old females produce less colostrum than mature cows. The amount of colostrum increases with age until four or five years, and begins to drop off around age seven. Cows that are disinterested or aggressive to their calf will have a negative impact of colostrum consumption. Also, udders that hang too low or have teats that are too large will inhibit adequate consumption of the first milk. Dystocia and twinning are additional risk factors for poor colostrum consumption. Calves born with one or more of these risk factors require special attention to ensure adequate colostrum intake. Recommended amounts of colostrum vary, but 2 quarts within the first 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.

Colostrum is an indispensable commodity and ranchers need to take every effort to save it. Unfortunately, not every cow gives birth to a live calf. These cows still offer an opportunity to save their udder treasure for less fortunate calves. Ranchers should collect and freeze this colostrum for future use. Colostrum should be placed in gallon-sized zipper lock bags and frozen while laying flat. This ensures a more rapid and even cooling to prevent spoiling. Producers should then thaw frozen colostrum in warm water to prevent denaturing the precious proteins it contains. Never thaw colostrum in the microwave. Fresh colostrum from the dam is ideal, however; frozen colostrum from the same herd is the next best thing. If these two sources are not available, we recommend a commercial powdered colostrum replacement. Ranchers need to work with a veterinarian when selecting their colostrum replacement products as very few actually contain the much needed antibodies.

The developing calf seems to have it made within the warm confines of the uterus. It is protected from the environmental extremes outside and all of its nutrition is provided. However, because of the way the calf attaches to the uterus to be nourished, they receive no antibodies from their dam unlike some other mammals. Antibodies are the immune proteins produced by the immune system to ward off pathogenic invaders and the diseases they cause. The calf is born without these antibodies from the cow. However, the dam does provide the gift of antibodies in her colostrum.

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Colostrum is the “first milk” produced by mammals immediately after giving birth. This white gold is similar to milk, but is packed with proteins, cells, signaling molecules, enzymes and sugars beneficial to the health and wellbeing of the calf. Think of it as the “Wheaties” to start life out right. It has the consistency of honey in January and is a sweet addition to the developing immune system of the newborn lucky enough to consume it. The antibodies in this sweet nectar are absorbed whole immediately after birth. “Gut closure” begins with the first meal and is essentially complete by twenty-four hours. Very few antibodies are absorbed intact, retaining there activity, after the first day. Time is of the essence.

Studies indicate that up to one in three calves don’t consume enough colostrum in the first day of life. These calves tend to have weaker immune systems and are smaller at weaning. In fact, some data would suggest they are up to 10 times more likely to become sick, five times more likely to die, and up to 35 pounds lighter at weaning. There is no way to visually determine which calves suffer from lack of adequate colostrum. Therefore, ranchers need to focus precious time resources on calves most at risk.

Cow-related risk factors include: age of the dam, mothering instinct or lack thereof, udder conformation, udder health and vaccination status. Two-year old females produce less colostrum than mature cows. The amount of colostrum increases with age until four or five years, and begins to drop off around age seven. Cows that are disinterested or aggressive to their calf will have a negative impact of colostrum consumption. Also, udders that hang too low or have teats that are too large will inhibit adequate consumption of the first milk. Dystocia and twinning are additional risk factors for poor colostrum consumption. Calves born with one or more of these risk factors require special attention to ensure adequate colostrum intake. Recommended amounts of colostrum vary, but 2 quarts within the first 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.

Colostrum is an indispensable commodity and ranchers need to take every effort to save it. Unfortunately, not every cow gives birth to a live calf. These cows still offer an opportunity to save their udder treasure for less fortunate calves. Ranchers should collect and freeze this colostrum for future use. Colostrum should be placed in gallon-sized zipper lock bags and frozen while laying flat. This ensures a more rapid and even cooling to prevent spoiling. Producers should then thaw frozen colostrum in warm water to prevent denaturing the precious proteins it contains. Never thaw colostrum in the microwave. Fresh colostrum from the dam is ideal, however; frozen colostrum from the same herd is the next best thing. If these two sources are not available, we recommend a commercial powdered colostrum replacement. Ranchers need to work with a veterinarian when selecting their colostrum replacement products as very few actually contain the much needed antibodies.

The developing calf seems to have it made within the warm confines of the uterus. It is protected from the environmental extremes outside and all of its nutrition is provided. However, because of the way the calf attaches to the uterus to be nourished, they receive no antibodies from their dam unlike some other mammals. Antibodies are the immune proteins produced by the immune system to ward off pathogenic invaders and the diseases they cause. The calf is born without these antibodies from the cow. However, the dam does provide the gift of antibodies in her colostrum.

Colostrum is the “first milk” produced by mammals immediately after giving birth. This white gold is similar to milk, but is packed with proteins, cells, signaling molecules, enzymes and sugars beneficial to the health and wellbeing of the calf. Think of it as the “Wheaties” to start life out right. It has the consistency of honey in January and is a sweet addition to the developing immune system of the newborn lucky enough to consume it. The antibodies in this sweet nectar are absorbed whole immediately after birth. “Gut closure” begins with the first meal and is essentially complete by twenty-four hours. Very few antibodies are absorbed intact, retaining there activity, after the first day. Time is of the essence.

Studies indicate that up to one in three calves don’t consume enough colostrum in the first day of life. These calves tend to have weaker immune systems and are smaller at weaning. In fact, some data would suggest they are up to 10 times more likely to become sick, five times more likely to die, and up to 35 pounds lighter at weaning. There is no way to visually determine which calves suffer from lack of adequate colostrum. Therefore, ranchers need to focus precious time resources on calves most at risk.

Cow-related risk factors include: age of the dam, mothering instinct or lack thereof, udder conformation, udder health and vaccination status. Two-year old females produce less colostrum than mature cows. The amount of colostrum increases with age until four or five years, and begins to drop off around age seven. Cows that are disinterested or aggressive to their calf will have a negative impact of colostrum consumption. Also, udders that hang too low or have teats that are too large will inhibit adequate consumption of the first milk. Dystocia and twinning are additional risk factors for poor colostrum consumption. Calves born with one or more of these risk factors require special attention to ensure adequate colostrum intake. Recommended amounts of colostrum vary, but 2 quarts within the first 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.

Colostrum is an indispensable commodity and ranchers need to take every effort to save it. Unfortunately, not every cow gives birth to a live calf. These cows still offer an opportunity to save their udder treasure for less fortunate calves. Ranchers should collect and freeze this colostrum for future use. Colostrum should be placed in gallon-sized zipper lock bags and frozen while laying flat. This ensures a more rapid and even cooling to prevent spoiling. Producers should then thaw frozen colostrum in warm water to prevent denaturing the precious proteins it contains. Never thaw colostrum in the microwave. Fresh colostrum from the dam is ideal, however; frozen colostrum from the same herd is the next best thing. If these two sources are not available, we recommend a commercial powdered colostrum replacement. Ranchers need to work with a veterinarian when selecting their colostrum replacement products as very few actually contain the much needed antibodies.

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