Farm Talk


December 11, 2012

Storing natural colostrum for optimum immunity

Parsons, Kansas — A previous article about commercially available colostrum substitutes has spawned questions about natural colostrum from a cow that lost a calf or from a dairy cow. An important factor that influences colostrum quality (immu­noglobulin concentration) is the age of the cow. Heifers have poorer quality colostrum while older cows have the best quality colostrum. Another very important factor is milking stage. In general, colostral immunoglobulin concentration is halved with each successive milking, therefore the first milking colostrum has twice the immunoglobulin content of the second milking colostrum. Colostrum leakage and premilking both adversely influence colostrum quality. Purchasing colostrum from other farms should be done with caution. Diseases such as Johne’s Disease may be transmitted from one operation to another via colostrum.

Cow calf producers are aware that natural colostrum must be ingested by baby calves within six hours of birth to acquire satisfactory passive immunity. However some calves do not have ample opportunity to receive colostrum. Perhaps the mother is a thin two-year-old that does not give enough milk or the baby calf was stressed by a long delivery process and is too sluggish to get up and nurse in time to get adequate colostrum. These calves need to be hand fed stored colostrum in order to have the best opportunity to survive scours infections and/or respiratory diseases.

Colostrum can be refrigerated for only about one week before quality (immunoglobulin or antibody concentration) declines. If you store colostrum, unfrozen be sure that the refrigerator is cold (33-35°F, 1-2°C) to reduce the onset of bacterial growth. If the colostrum begins to show signs of souring, the quality of the colostrum is reduced. The immunglobulin (very large protein) molecules in colostrum that bring passive immunity to the calf will be broken down by the bacteria, reducing the amount of immunity that the colostrum can provide. Thus, it is important that colostrum be stored in the refrigerator for only a week or less.

How long can the frozen colostrum be stored? We often answer this question flippantly by saying, "just as long as you would store frozen fish to eat!" Colostrum may be frozen for up to a year without significant breakdown of the immunoglobulins. However this is one example where improved technology is not in our favor. Frost-free freezers are not the best for long-term colostrum storage. They go through cycles of freezing and thawing that can allow the colostrum to partially thaw. This can greatly shorten colostrum storage life. Freezing colostrum in one quart in one or two gallon zip-closure storage bags is an excellent method of storing colostrum. Many producers have had great success using the zip-closure bags. Use two bags to minimize the chance of leaking, and lay them flat in the freezer. By laying the bags flat, the rate of thawing can be increased, thereby reducing the delay between time of calving and feeding. The freezer should be cold (-20°C, -5°F)—it's a good idea to check your freezer occasionally. Much more information about colostrum use and transfer of passive immunity is available from the OSU Fact Sheet F-3358 Disease Protection of Baby Calves. £

Text Only
  • As heat, humidity set in, consider livestock heat stress as danger

    The heat and humidity of summer are arriving in many parts of Nebraska this week, and a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator is offering tips on how to handle livestock in these potentially dangerous conditions.

    July 29, 2014

  • Cattle markets likely topped for now

    Most of Oklahoma received rain in the past week with roughly half the state receiving one to over three inches and a few areas receiving even heavier rains that filled ponds which have been low or dry for many months.
    Forage growth, which had just begun to stall under summer heat, has picked back up.  Summer heat is forecast to return this week and, along with high humidity from recent rain, will lead to sweltering heat indices that will impact both cattle and the producers who care for them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Follow BQA guidelines when treating and selling cows

    Summer time often brings a few infectious ailments to beef cows.  Common problems include eye infections and foot rot.

    July 15, 2014

  • Mixed emotions in the beef industry

    The beef industry is experiencing a wide range of emotions at the current time.  The level of excitement is obvious as cattle and beef prices have pushed even beyond record levels of earlier this year.

    July 8, 2014

  • Heat impacts bull fertility

    Recently a producer asked about the impact that the heat of the summer of 2012 may have had on the reduced calf crop that was discovered the following spring.

    July 1, 2014

  • charolaisXheifer.jpg Summer cattle market conditions

    Summer officially started this past weekend and cattle markets so far have shown little of the seasonal pressure that has been expected.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Monitor medicated mineral intake

    Medicated minerals are available and frequently used to help prevent the blood-born disease, anaplasmosis. A consistent and appropriate intake of the mineral is critical to a successful anaplasmosis prevention program.

    June 17, 2014

  • Should cow/calf producers lock in fall calf prices?

     In recent article, I discussed record high feeder cattle prices as well as the lack of profits for current feedlot placements. While current price levels offer little or no profit opportunity for buyers of feeder cattle, those same prices could result in record or near record profits for cow-calf producers this year.

    June 10, 2014

  • Feeder cattle markets red hot

    Widespread rains over the Memorial weekend may have curtailed holiday activities but were enthusiastically welcomed by cattle producers in the Southern Plains.

    June 3, 2014

  • Is beef herd expansion underway?

    The effects of many years of cattle herd liquidation and the inevitable decreases in beef production have become glaringly obvious in 2014. Cattle slaughter is down 6.3 percent leading to a 5.7 percent decrease in beef production so far this year.

    May 28, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content