Colostrum Quality

colostrum pooling

You cannot tell colostrum quality just by looking at it. Prove this to yourself or your staff by using a Brix refractometer, a simple relatively inexpensive tool ($100-200) that allows producers to assess colostrum quality instantly and without leaving the maternity pen. Try and guess the quality before testing it. This will show you that it isn’t possible to judge just by a look. A digital refractometer is more expensive ($450-550), but is easier to use, more accurate, and ensures all users see the same measurement.

Colostrum samples can be sent for testing. Bacteria counts should be less than 100,000cfu/mL. High bacteria counts are associated with poor colostrum absorption in the calf. Colostrum may also become a source of infection.

Is your colostrum management working?
Following recommended practices for collecting and feeding colostrum will go a long way to ensuring calves are protected by maternal antibodies before they can develop their own immune systems. Having proof that your colostrum management is working can remind everyone why you feed colostrum the way you do. This proof is now as easy as placing a drop of colostrum or blood serum on a simple testing device.

Contaminated colostrum
In a recent study conducted in the United States, 43 per cent of colostrum samples fed to calves were considered contaminated with high levels of bacteria. This represents a significant challenge to calf health.

New research challenges the status quo for colostrum management
Don’t bother with a colostrometer – these temperature sensitive, subjective, and easily breakable glass instruments are nowhere near as accurate as a digital refractometer. If you are going to invest in testing equipment, purchase the more accurate and durable digital refractometer. Once you break a few colostrometers ($75-100 each), you would have been farther ahead with a refractometer!