New studies link colostrum quality to calf health and survival
Agriculture researchers have unveiled pivotal findings that identify colostrum, the first milk from cows' post-birth, as a key determinant in the health and survival of beef calves. Studies conducted by North Carolina State University, in collaboration with the University of Calgary, show a direct correlation between colostrum's antibody transfer and the vitality of the calf population.
Assistant Professor Lisa Gamsjaeger, while working with the University of Calgary, led the research, which took a critical look at how first-time cow moms and older cows affected the antibody levels in their calves. The results were telling calves receiving inadequate colostrum were more prone to health issues, needing more medical treatments, and had higher mortality rates.
The research highlighted that colostrum intake within the first 24 hours is vital for calves, providing them with necessary disease protection. However, not all calves benefit equally. The study found that 18% of the calves sampled showed inadequate antibody levels, with a concerning 5% experiencing a complete transfer failure.
The intervention strategies for these at-risk calves are crucial, and current colostrum replacement products may not fully meet their needs. This gap has prompted researchers to advocate for beef calf-specific colostrum products and better vaccine management practices for pregnant cows and heifers to enhance the quality of colostrum available.
Moreover, the economic impact is significant. Calves with poor antibody transfer not only face health risks but also economic losses, as evidenced by their lower body weights at weaning.
These findings, published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, were supported by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency. The collective efforts of researchers across Canada contribute to this work, aiming to improve the welfare and economic viability of the beef industry through evidence-based colostrum management guidelines.