Calving Equals Colostrum

black calf

Calving equals colostrum: Not only in cold weather, but hot weather too.

As fall calving approaches, flies and heat stress are likely some of your top concerns. Rightfully so, but do you know that colostrum has a direct effect on helping your calves combat that heat stress? In fact, feeding quality colostrum during times of heat stress is just as important as it is during cold weather.

No matter the season, calves are born with no natural immunity to the pathogens they encounter. They do not begin to develop their own immune system until 4-6 weeks of age, so their early immunity is derived exclusively from the colostrum consumed in their first 24 hours of life.

IgG absorption is imperative for heat-stressed calves …

Calves that experienced prenatal heat stress absorb significantly fewer antibodies – antibodies that are crucial to ensure overall health until they develop their immune system. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a key compound within colostrum that helps provide immunity to a calf and is absorbed within the small intestine and then into the circulatory system.

Generally, the percentage of IgGs a calf will absorb from colostrum is dependent on the concentration of IgGs and volume fed, as well as the calf’s absorption ability. Calves that are heat stressed absorb significantly fewer, which impacts their overall immune development and health.

holstein calf

… so protect them with whole bovine colostrum

IgG content is one of the most important factors when feeding your calves a colostrum replacer to overcome heat stress. Many colostrum products on the market have been stripped of key components that impact your calves’ overall health. To provide the greatest immunity and the highest quality colostrum, find a whole bovine colostrum that is a USDA Licensed Veterinary Biological product, meaning it is guaranteed safe – tested for diseases including Johne’s – and is regulated for potency and purity.

Receiving a good-quality colostrum replacement is especially important for calves born to dams that were heat stressed during their last trimester of pregnancy.

Heat-stressed cows can affect your calves, too …

If heat stressed, calves tend to have issues with hyperventilation and display weakness. This is also linked to calves that have received colostrum from cows that were heat stressed during their last trimester. Studies have shown that calves fed colostrum from their dam that was heat stressed during the dry period have more compromised immunity compared with calves born to cows cooled during heat stress (Monteiro, 2014). The graph below shows the absorption rate of colostrum in calves that are born to heat-stressed cows versus cows that did not experience heat stress.

graph showing results of 3 studies indicating colostrum absorption is lower in calves born to cow's that were heat stressed during preganancy
Knowing maternal colostrum may be compromised, it is recommended to provide calves born to dams that were heat-stressed during pregnancy a colostrum replacer with 200g of IgG.

… so use a colostrum replacer that helps them thermoregulate

Your calf’s ability to thermoregulate isn’t important just in cold weather – it’s crucial during hot weather too. So, when evaluating what colostrum replacer to use, look for a product containing colostral fat. Colostral fat – found only in natural bovine colostrum – should be the primary source of fat since it provides the calf with the critical energy source they need. It is a key factor that triggers brown fat metabolism within a calf. Brown fat is the fastest to be metabolized and allows a calf to thermoregulate in both the cold and the heat.

High-quality colostrum benefits your calves in other ways too.

In addition to being susceptible to more health challenges when fed poor colostrum, data has shown calves that are not provided quality colostrum will have a decreased weaning weight. In one study, calves weaned at two months of age had a different weaning weight of 173.06 lbs. versus 145.28 lbs. (Tao, 2012). This loss of weaning weight, even displayed at such an early age, will have ongoing breeding and health impacts.

Overall, investing in a quality colostrum helps your calves reach their genetic potential. High-quality colostrum helps protect the calf as they develop their own immune system, so you will safeguard them from pathogens, treat less calves and ensure your genetic investment is off to the best start possible.

Need help choosing the right colostrum product?

To ensure your calves are getting nothing but the best, invest in a colostrum replacer made with only one ingredient: whole bovine colostrum. These products contain all the bioactive factors a calf needs to stay healthy and thrive not only in cold weather but when they face heat stress too.

We are here to help you ensure the quality of your colostrum and the success of your herd. We offer a complete line of whole bovine colostrum products customized for your generations – all of which are licensed to guarantee potency, purity, safety and efficacy. Because a healthy tomorrow depends on the care given today.

Monteiro, A., Tao, S., Thompson, I., & Dahl, G. (2014). Effect of heat stress during late gestation on immune function and growth performance of calves: Isolation of altered colostral and calf factors. Journal of Dairy Science,97(10), 6426-6439. doi:10.3168/jds.2013-7891

Tao, S., Monteiro, A., Thompson, I., Hayen, M., & Dahl, G. (2012). Effect of late-gestation maternal heat stress on growth and immune function of dairy calves. Journal of Dairy Science,95(12), 7128-7136. doi:10.3168/jds.2012-5697

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