Quick action can boost calves’ chances

DAIRY farmers have always valued the first milk produced by cows immediately after calving but recent research is producing more evidence on how important this milk, called colostrum, can be.

Speaking to a group of dairy farmers at Stonehaven this week Lorenzo Viora, a vet and dairy research specialist, said the more they found out about colostrum the more valuable it was.

“If handled properly, it can produce not only short-term benefits but also longer-term gains,” he said. “Resistance to disease can quickly be seen in calves which are born with no resistance but cows which have had proper levels of good colostrum at birth are far less likely to be culled at an early stage of their productive life.

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“Milk yields were also better from cows where the feeding regime had been correct early on. There are long-term benefits from getting it right from the start. It is becoming more and more important to use colostrum correctly.”

He said a great deal depended on the “three Qs” – quantity, quality and quickness in transferring the colostrum from cow to calf. Research work had shown that the maximum benefit in the new-born calves was obtained when they were given four litres of colostrum within four hours of being born.

He admitted, it may be difficult to get the calf to take that quantity so soon but the use of a stomach tube would ensure the optimum amount of milk was consumed.

If these provided definitions for quantity and quickness, he said the quality also linked in as the high proteins, vitamins, antibodies and minerals in the colostrum also dissipated quickly so the best quality milk was taken early.

Viora was speaking at Dendoldrum farm which picked up the dairy herd of the year in 2010 at an event organised by leading Scottish feed manufacturers, Harbro.

Earlier this week the company posted its annual figures showing a record performance for the financial year to June 2011.

Turnover rose by £9.8m to £77.9m and profit before tax increased to £2.6m, an increase of £700k on 2010. The acquisition of Midland Feed Services, further market penetration and the harsh winter weather of 2010-11 were key factors for the improved financial figures.