Improving Serum Immunoglobulin Levels with Multiple Colostrum Feedings

Published on Tue, 11/26/2019 - 8:38am

 Improving Serum Immunoglobulin Levels with Multiple Colostrum Feedings

 By Jorge Botero, MV

 Without a doubt, colostrum is the single most important feeding of a dairy animal’s life. Feeding high quality colostrum affects both short, and long-term performance. It is important to remember that the calf’s small intestine begins decreasing its capacity of immunoglobulin absorption immediately after birth. In order to achieve an adequate passive transfer (successfully absorbing enough Ig), it is imperative to feed colostrum as soon as possible. Adequate passive transfer is associated with lower treatments, better weight gains and higher milk production.

A 2005 study with Brown Swiss calves evaluated the difference between feeding 2 liters and 4 liters of colostrum at birth. These calves were monitored after calving for two lactations.
At the end of the second lactation, three major observations were made for the group fed 4L.
• 30% increase in pre-pubertal growth rates based on colostrum feeding level, under identical feeding conditions.
• 16% increase in survival to the end of the second lactation
• They produced 2,263 lbs. more milk by the end of the second lactation.
Take home message: Simply feeding more colostrum makes a HUGE difference!
In 2018, a study was carried out to better understand the dynamics of Immunoglobulin absorption and to determine if there was any benefit of extended colostrum feeding. After receiving the first feeding of colostrum, the calves were divided into 3 groups. Each group then received additional feedings which were given at 12, 24, 36, 48 and 60 hours of life, and the effect on passive transfer was analyzed.
• Group 1 received COLOSTRUM
• Group 2 received 1:1 (COLOSTRUM : MILK MIX)
• Group 3 received MILK
The highest level of Passive Transfer was achieved by the COLOSTRUM group, 30g of IgG/L of serum. In the middle was the MIX group with 25g of IgG/L followed by the MILK group with 22.4 g of IgG/L. The MILK group reached its highest serum IgG level at 12 hours, while the other two groups reached their highest level at 21 hours.
This study found that minimum levels of IgG were 21% lower for the MIX group and 30% lower for the MILK group. Even with this decreased absorption for the MIX and the COLOSTRUM group, the study demonstrated that the intestine wall was still able to absorb IgG past 12 hours, and that constitutes an advantage to increasing passive transfer in newborn calves.

Take home message: Simply feeding more colostrum makes a HUGE difference!
Remember, colostrum feeding benefits not only immunity but major organ development and future performance!