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Beef Management Tips: Colostrum for Beef Calves

Livestock Update, February 2000

John Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech

Occasionally newborn calves need supplementary colostrum. Calves that are weak and cannot nurse or whose dam gives little milk at calving often need extra colostrum. Calves need colostrum within 4 to 8 hours after birth. Calves should be fed 1 pint to 1 quart of warmed colostrum by an esophageal feeder.

Colostrum from your own beef herd is best. The second is colostrum from a neighboring beef herd. Dairy colostrum has a lower concentration of antibodies, but can also be used. When dairy colostrum is used, care should be used to get colostrum from a herd that is free of Johnes disease. Extra colostrum can be frozen for up to a year. Colostrum should be frozen in 1/2 pints or pints for easy thawing. Colostrum should be thawed in warm water not in the microwave. Overheating colostrum by microwaves or hot water will destroy the antibodies in the colostrum.

Freeze dried colostrum or colostrum substitutes are readily available. They appear to be less effective than frozen colostrum, but they will offer some protection if other sources are not available. They will take some time to mix properly.

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