Improper handling of calves can lead to their rapid collapse after birth. It is very important not only to take care of proper hygienic conditions, but also nutrition. In this regard, it is crucial to water the calves with colostrum, which not only provides them with nutrients, but also supports the immune system.
The proper feeding of calves is one of the most important conditions for their welfare and prevention of excessive falls. Calves are weaned quite early, because from the point of view of production economics it is cheaper for the breeder to feed young cattle with milk replacers than with milk. In beef cattle, the calves stay with their mothers for much longer than in dairy cows and can feed on their milk. However, both dairy and meat calves need colostrum in the initial feeding.
Colostrum is the first food consumed by calves right after giving birth. It is a secretion of the mammary gland with a slightly different color, texture or composition compared to regular milk. It is dense, yellow and has a composition that meets the needs of the calves in their first days of life. It is released for only a few days, so the calf should start drinking colostrum as soon as possible.
When a calf is born, its immune system is virtually idle, leaving it vulnerable to almost any type of infection. Therefore, colostrum should be given to him in the first hour of life. Colostrum contains a number of immunoglobulins, or immune bodies, which provide calves with so-called passive immunity for the first 4-6 weeks of life. During this time, the animal produces its own antibodies. The antibodies contained in the colostrum are absorbed through the intestinal walls approximately 24 to 36 hours after birth, therefore the calf should be given colostrum as early as possible. Not only the timing of colostrum administration is very important, but also its amount. In order to supply the necessary amount of antibodies, the calf should receive 5 percent of its body weight colostrum. So for smaller breeds it is about 1-1.5 liters, and for calves of large breeds – about 2 liters. After the first consumption of colostrum, the next portion should be administered after about 12 hours.