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Why should you feed colostrum not only at the day of birth?

Why should you feed colostrum not only at the day of birth?

Colostrum is more than immunoglobulins and even more than the first essential meal for neonates. Directly after birth, the transfer of passive immunity is the main task of colostrum. But the dam provides immunoglobulins and bioactive substances for more than one day to ensure optimal neonatal development. The reduction of antimicrobial substances and antibiotic-free rearing is a major interest in livestock farming. Hence, bovine colostrum products are commonly used as a natural alternative for calves, kids, piglets, puppies and in feed and dietary feed supplements. Hence, bovine colostrum products are commonly used as a natural alternative in feed and dietary feed supplements for calves, kids, piglets, and puppies.

Post – gut – closure feeding of colostrum

It makes sense to provide fresh or dried bovine colostrum after the first 24 hours of life. Even though the immunoglobulins are not able to pass the gut barrier, they stay in the intestine and support the local intestinal immunity (Fig. 1).


Figure 1: (a) Systemic Immunity, (b) local gut-immunity

The first colostrum has the highest concentration in immunoglobulins and other bioactive substances. During the following five days, the concentration drops in bovine colostrum to the mature milk levels. This milk yield is called transition milk. The concentration in bovine colostrum drops to the mature milk level(s).  Providing the offspring growth factors, antimicrobial substances, immunoglobulins and nutrients to protect the young animals’ intestine through mucosal growth, healing and to support the developing gut immune system. 

Heterologous colostrum

Immunoglobulins bind themselves target specific to pathogens, they prevent the attachment and invasion into the intestinal mucosa. This mechanism is not species-specific, but pathogen-specific. Therefore, it is possible to use colostrum supplements of bovine origin in other animal species and across countries. For example, the used colostrum powder is sourced from cows never exposed to Salmonella, no immunoglobulins against Salmonella are presented in the colostrum and therefore it will not function in piglets suffering from Salmonella. Conversely, if the cow produced immunoglobulins against ETEC and lambs, infected by ETEC, achieve this colostrum, it will benefit from pathogen-specific binding. The technical term for the use of foreign colostrum is a heterologous colostrum, whereas homologous colostrum describes that mother and offspring are from the same species.

Several studies showed the beneficial effect of feeding bovine colostrum or colostrum-derived products to pre-weaned calves in the first 14 days of life. Fewer days of diarrhea, reduced incidences of respiratory and umbilical disorders were observed. A successful transfer of...

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Timo Stiebeling

Timo Stiebeling

Head of Marketing, Biochem Zusatzstoffe Handels- und Produktionsges. mbH View all posts of Timo

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