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Rachel on the Ranch Blog

Q&A: What is colostrum?

Q&A: What is colostrum?

If you follow a rancher on social media, you’ve inevitably heard them talking about colostrum. So why is it such a big deal?

Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mama after the calf is born. It’s high in nutrients as well as antibodies that are critical to the calf’s survival.

New born calves don’t have much of an immune system. Colostrum protects them from disease.

Calves need to consume colostrum within four hours of birth (ideally MUCH sooner than that). After 24 hours, the calf’s intestines will no longer absorb the antibodies in colostrum.

The best way for our calves to get colostrum in their systems is from their mama. Sometimes, unfortunately, this isn’t possible. If the cow rejects her calf, or doesn’t get it cleaned off and standing up right away, it becomes our responsibility to step in and make sure the calf gets that colostrum in its system.

This usually means picking up the calf, warming/drying it out selves, and getting a bottle made right away.

If the calf is too weak to suck, we use a tubing bag to put the colostrum directly into its stomach.

Depending on the cow, sometimes we are able to milk her directly into a bottle to feed the calf, but since time is critical, we often use a commercially produced colostrum powder. It’s safe, efficient, and gets all those important nutrients and antibodies into the calf.

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