NDSU Extension - Williams County


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Pre-Calving Nutrition - Colostrum - October 12, 2017

This article is a continuation from last weeks Why is Body Condition Important? Article. This information is from the new NDSU Extension Service publication; Preparing for a Successful Calving Season; Nutrition, Management and Health Programs. If you are interested in this publication please call the Extension Office at 701-577-4595.

Reducing nutrient intake prior to calving will not reduce the weight of the calf at birth or birthing difficulty. Conversely, calving difficulty typically increases with reduced nutrient intake because the cow tends to be weather, which results in weak calves that are less active immediately after birth. Overfeeding gestating beef cows can result in problems at calving time. Cows that are over conditioned deposit fat in the birth canal, which results in difficulty. Extremely cold temperatures during late gestation also can increase calf birth weight by increasing blood flow to the uterus, which results in increased nutrient supply to the fetus. Those that raise cattle know the importance of getting that calf to nurse as soon as possible, calves that take longer to nurse has a higher likelihood that the colostrum absorption will not be adequate to protect the calf from disease. Most producers feed their cattle at a certain time during calving season to try to influence them to calve during daylight hours. This method of management has shown best results when started about a month before you’re expected to start calving, and to continue for the duration of calving season.

Colostrum was mentioned above, stressing the importance of how that calf needs it soon after birth to receive the highest benefits. For colostrum to be most effective, the calf should receive 1 quart within six hours after birth and a total of 2 to 3 quarts within 12 hours of birth. After this time, the guy begins to “close” and absorbing the antibodies found in colostrum becomes more difficult for the calf. Cows on higher planes of nutrition also produce more colostrum than cows on low plane of nutrition. Calves that have experienced a difficult or prolonged birth tend to take longer to stand and nurse, resulting in a weak calf that lacks the proper immunoglobulin protection necessary to fend off disease. These calves may need to be tube-fed to receive adequate amounts of colostrum. Some cows simply don’t produce an adequate amount of colostrum. The use of colostrum from other cows or stores colostrum sometimes is needed to ensure that each calf receives adequate colostrum. For optimum results, colostrum should be collected from cows within 24 hours of calving and fed fresh, but it can be frozen and used at a later date as well. To facilitate storage and thawing, you may want to consider storing colostrum in a zipper-top freezer bags. The bags will store flat, freezing and thawing an individual “serving” (1 to 2 quarts). Once colostrum is thawed, it shouldn’t be refrozen again for future use.

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