With Autumn calving underway it’s now time to look at one of the most important aspects of your calving procedure; colostrum.
Last week we discussed calving facilities and ensuring that they are ready for autumn and winter calving.
This week we are taking a look at colostrum also known locally as beestings or beestons. It’s the first lactation produced by your cow be she beef or dairy. Colostrum contains essentially immunoglobulins and goodness that your calf needs to prepare them for their life ahead.
Colostrum feeding is essential and newly born calves must get colostrum within the first 2 hours of life. It’s a first feeding but its also much more.
Colostrum should be a custardy yellow in colour though it can come in darker shades and even blood red. Testing your colostrum is a good idea and for the farmer with a larger herd investing in a refractometer is a good idea. Refractometers are still relatively new to the Irish market but will allow you to take a small drop of colostrum and place it on the refractometers glass surface. There you can look at and test the colostrum with the eyepiece which contains a scale and will help you determine how good the colostrum is.
For farmers finding off coloured or even red colostrum, your cow may be lacking in essential nutrients. It can also be the sign of age in an older cow and might be an indication that a cull may need to come.
Not every cow will produce enough colostrum to give that all important first feeding so it is important to have a back up in the freezer.
Storing real colostrum is always better than using artificial colostrum. It’s the real deal after all. Be aware when thawing out frozen colostrum not to overheat the colostrum as boiling the frozen colostrum will result in killing the good bacteria and immunoglobulins in the liquid.
Next week we will take a look at feeding the colostrum and properly using your stomach tube!