Colostrum Replacements

A colostral supplement should be considered when maternal colostrum is of poor quality, if it is contaminated by pathogens, or if fresh colostrum is unavailable.

When buying colostrum replacements, make sure they contain at least 100 g of IgG/dose. There are products available with lower amounts of IgG – 30–50 g of IgG/dose – but they will not be as effective as the higher dose.

Colostrum replacement products are a good way to provide biosecurity on the farm if there is a concern about the spread of diseases through colostrum.

When using a colostrum replacement product, it still needs to be administered within 24 hours of a calf’s birth to be most beneficial.

Supplements are derived from a number of different sources.

  • Bovine serum: at suggested feeding rates, the efficiency of IgG absorption is better than that of colostrum (38% compared to 25% for colostrum)
    Building the Foundation for Healthy Calves
  • Cheese whey: research indicates that absorption is quite poor and serum IgG concentration is much lower than using colostrum or serum-derived supplements
    Building the Foundation for Healthy Calves
  • Colostrum from cows at selected herds: commercial companies can collect colostrum from cows and process it for sale. Absorption rates of these products are quite poor, achieving only 20–30% of recommended IgG intake.
    Building the Foundation for Healthy Calves

Dr. Sheila McGuirk, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, has put together a list of advantages and disadvantages of feeding a colostrum replacement product:

Advantages of feeding a colostrum replacement product:

  • Readily available and conveniently packaged
  • Easy to mix in two quarts of water
  • The above two reasons frequently result in administration at a younger age than colostrum
  • No bacterial contamination or transfer of contagious disease
  • Adequate antibody levels can be acquired
  • Calf health is not compromised

Disadvantages of feeding colostrum replacement product:

  • Immunoglobulin levels are lower than colostrum
  • Though the product has nutritional supplements added, it is not like colostrum
  • Non–specific immune factors and immune cells are not present
  • The high carbohydrate content could result in an enhanced risk for enterotoxemia if it is mixed with colostrum, rather than water.

For more information on colostrum and colostrum replacement products, visit:

Pasteurized Milk and Colostrum for Calves: An Option or Necessity?
The Saskatoon Colostrum Co. Ltd.

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