The Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) and two of the UK’s biggest integrated beef rearing businesses, ABP Blade Farming and Meadow Quality, have announced their support for RUMA’s #ColostrumIsGold campaign, which launches today (1 February).
It is hoped that by promoting messages through their supply chains, at auction marts and in remittances, the three organisations will be able to encourage more dairy farmers especially – as well as beef and sheep farmers – to understand the benefits of getting colostrum management right in the first few hours of life.
Cattle veterinary surgeon Tim Potter from Westpoint, who works with farms that rear calves for ABP Blade Farming, says: “Born without an immune system, newborn animals need to take antibodies on board through their mothers’ colostrum. But with their stomachs only able to absorb these antibodies for a short period, it’s estimated that 95% of dairy farms don’t manage to give that all-important feed within the ideal two-hour timeframe after birth.”
He says a combination of this and poor quality colostrum means that less than a third of calves currently receive sufficient immunity, and the whole supply chain is losing out as a result. “We have a great opportunity here to reduce the need for antibiotic treatments through improved health and immunity, but also to increase daily liveweight gain and reach service or finishing weights quicker.”
Matt Nightingale of Meadow Quality says that the dairy sector in particular has huge productivity gains to make by addressing an issue that most often just needs time and patience.
“The difference good colostrum management makes is startling. Calves that have had the right quantity of the right quality colostrum quickly enough are far more productive animals,” he explains.
“They put on weight better and have a far lower incidence of diseases such as scour or pneumonia. They also handle stress periods such as arrival on the farm and weaning far better, and that’s a big win for rearers and the dairy beef sector as a whole.”
Chris Dodds of the LAA is hoping his members can help get the message out through the posters and hand out leaflets in their 110 marts around England and Wales.
“Giving calves the best start means they have better, healthier lives and they create more income in the enterprise, whether they are for breeding or for meat. That’s why we’ll be encouraging our members to raise this issue with dairy and beef farmers, but also with sheep farmers as this issue very much affects lambs as well,” he explains.
The #ColostrumIsGold campaign will run throughout February and into March. This is the second time the campaign has run following its successful launch last year when it was widely adopted by the sheep sector, achieved a reach of almost a million over Twitter and won the communications category at Public Health England’s Antibiotic Guardian Awards.
A wide range of advice including technical guides and videos is available on the website www.colostrumisgold.org to support farmers and veterinary surgeons looking to review or improve practices.
People are also encouraged to share hints, tips and experiences via Twitter and through the website using the hashtag #ColostrumIsGold. A prize draw offering a range of products to suit beef, dairy, pig and sheep farmers will be held at the end of February and anyone posting or tweeting during February using the hashtag will be automatically entered. More information at www.colostrumisgold.org.
Please go to www.colostrumisgold.org for information, resources and prize rules.
The prize draw is offering the following prizes, subject to Terms and Conditions:
- 1 x Udderly EZ ewe colostrum hand milker (RRP £170) – kindly donated by Udderly EZ
- 1 x Store&Thaw Colostrum management kit worth (RRP £148) – kindly donated by Pyon products pyonproducts.com
- 3 x places on an Animal Medicines Best Practice training course (RRP £71 each – winner selects option for beef, dairy, pig or sheep), developed by NOAH and run by Lantra – kindly donated by ABP Food Group (abpfoodgroup.com), Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (www.rabdf.co.uk) and NOAH www.noah.co.uk/farmer-training (three separate prizes, one place per winner, includes course only and not travel or accommodation)
- 1 x Colostrum Refractometer (RRP £25) – kindly donated by Pyon products pyonproducts.com
- 10 x 10% off vouchers for either the Store&Thaw management kit (RRP £148) or the Thawing Tank with Heater stirrer unit (RRP £925) – kindly donated by Pyon products pyonproducts.com (10 separate prizes)
Calf colostrum facts
Research has shown that calves with low antibody levels are more likely to become ill or to die before weaning. Conversely, higher concentrations at 1-2 days of age are linked to better health, lower mortality and higher daily liveweight gain, with animals reaching target weights more quickly:
- Calves with low antibody levels were 1.6x more likely to become ill and 2.7x more likely to die before weaning. Higher antibody concentrations were linked to better health, lower mortality and higher liveweight gain; at 205 days, calves were on average 3.5kg heavier 
- Calves with high antibody levels from colostrum reached target first service weights sooner 
- Antibody concentration in the calf at 1-2 days old significantly affected average daily weight gain through to 6 months of age 
- Calves fed sufficient colostrum quickly enough more than halved their risk of pneumonia 
- Brown Swiss heifer calves given 2 or 4 litres of colostrum at birth were monitored for two lactations after calving. Those given 4 litres showed a 30% increase in pre-pubertal growth rate, a 16% increase in survival to the end of the second lactation and 1,026kg more milk production over those given 2 litres
- Antibodies from colostrum helped protect calves from death and poor performance from septicaemia and pneumonia, with effects lasting up to 6 months of age
- Calves with good colostrum status were a third less likely to die and half as likely to become ill
- Lambs fed adequate quality colostrum at birth do not succumb to Watery Mouth
- A large number of lambs born in the UK currently receive oral antibiotics as protection:
- Oral antibiotics were prescribed to 49% of flocks covering approximately 64% of predicted lamb crop (NB: a very small % of total antibiotic usage on sheep farms)
- A veterinary student survey on farms of housed sheep at lambing time suggested 68% of sheep farms used prophylactic oral antibiotics in neonatal lambs
- A questionnaire survey of sheep farmers supplying lambs deadweight suggested that 26% of farms gave prophylactic oral antibiotic to all neonatal lambs born on farm
- There is no significant difference in the productivity levels between flocks using prophylactic antibiotic for neonatal lambs and those that used none
- 50% of neonatal lamb E coli are resistant to spectinomycin (most common Watery Mouth treatment)
- Higher colostrum intake (200ml) improves the survival rate up to weaning
- Colostrum intake above 290ml per pig at birth has led to 6-week weights being 2kg heavier
- The smaller the interval between birth and first suckle, the lower the levels of pre-weaning mortality
- Dewell, R.D. et al (2006). Association of neonatal serum immunoglobulin G1 concentration with health and performance in beef calves. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 228:914–921
- Furman-Fratczak, K. et al (2011) The influence of colostral immunoglobulin concentration in heifer calves’ serum on their health and growth. J. Dairy Sci. 94:5536–5543
- Robison, J.D. et al (1988). Effects of passive immunity on growth and survival in the dairy heifer. J. Dairy Sci. 71:1283–1287.
- Virtala, A.M. et al (1999) The effect of maternally derived immunoglobulin G on the risk of respiratory disease in heifers during the first 3 months of life. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 39
- Faber, S. N. et al (2005). Case Study: Effects of colostrum ingestion on lactational performance. Prof. Anim. Scientist 21:420-425
- Donovan, D.A. et al (1997). Associations between passive immunity and morbidity and mortality in dairy heifers in Florida, USA. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 34 (1998) 31-46
- Blowey, R.W., (1986). A Veterinary Book for Dairy Farmers. Farming Press Ltd
- Lovatt, F., Duncan, J. and Hinde, D. (2019) Responsible Use of Antibiotics on Sheep Farms. In Practice Vol 41–1
- Davies, P., Remnant, J.G., Green, M.J., Gascoigne, E., Gibbon, N., Hyde, R., Porteous, J.R., Schubert, K., Lovatt, F. and Corbishley, A.(2017) Quantitative analysis of antibiotic usage in British sheep flocks Veterinary Record 181, 511
- Douglas, F., and Sargison, N.D. (2018) Husbandry procedures at the point of lambing with reference to perinatal lamb mortality. Veterinary Record vol. 182, no. 2, p. 52
- Lima, E., Lovatt, F., Davies, P. and Kaler, J. (in press). Using abattoir sales data to investigate associations between implementations of disease preventative practices and sheep flock performance
- VARSS 2016. (2017). Veterinary Medicines Directorate
- Moreira, L.P., Menegat M.B., Barros, G.P., Bernardi, M.L., Wentz, I., and Bortolozzo, F.P. (2017) Effects of colostrum, and protein and energy supplementation on survival and performance of low-birth-weight piglets. Livest. Sci. 202, 188–193
- Devillers N., Le Dividich, J. and Prunier, A. (2011). Influence of colostrum intake on piglet survival and immunity. Animal Aug;5(10):1605-12