Dr Jeff Cave, DEDJTR District Veterinary Officer
THE health and survival of an animal depends on how quickly and how much it drinks in its first few hours of life.
It’s common knowledge that animals need to suckle soon after birth. This is vital because they are born without immunity to disease.
Colostrum is the form of milk produced in late pregnancy or immediately after birth, and is concentrated in essential proteins called immunoglobulins, which protect the new-born animal against disease in its early life.
Immunoglobulins can initially be absorbed from the animal’s stomach directly into the bloodstream, but once the animal is 24 hours old, immunoglobulin can no longer be absorbed.
If animals don’t receive sufficient, high quality colostrum during the first 24 hours, they will be more susceptible to disease.
The most common cause of insufficient colostrum intake is a difficult birth, which reduces the ability of the animal to suckle.
Early bonding between the young animal and its mother will also maximise the chance of the animal receiving sufficient colostrum.
Pregnant animals can be vaccinated prior to giving birth to ensure that their colostrum is of high quality.
Producers may wish to have a supply of quality colostrum stored. This can be achieved by freezing high-quality colostrum collected from the first milking.
Colostrum should be collected within 24 hours of giving birth as secretion of colostrum ceases soon after birth.
If an animal has received insufficient colostrum from its mother, it may be fed on stored colostrum using a nipple bottle or a stomach tube.
Supplements are typically less efficient at giving immunity.
Finally, it should be remembered that colostrum may provide good immunity but it can’t overcome the effects of an animal being born in a dirty environment.
For further advice, contact your local veterinarian or DEDJTR Veterinary or Animal Health Officer.