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The feeding of colostrum is vital to successful calf rearing and studies estimate that over 40% of dairy calves do not get enough during the first day of their life. Here are a few points about colostrum feeding.
• Newborn calves should be fed 10-15% of their body weight (4-5 litres for a 40 kg calf) of first-milking colostrum within the first 12 hours of life.
• It is recommended that all calves receive 2 litres of colostrum (if necessary tube fed) on arrival at the calf-rearing shed.
• Colostrum should not be put into the bulk milk vat for up to eight (ten for heifers) milkings after calving.
• Rather than discarding colostrum after a few days, it may be better to preserve it for later feeding, especially since it exerts a local scour protection in the intestine and is highly nutritious.
• Colostrum has its greatest value when fed fresh or within a day or two of milking but it can be stored. Natural fermentation is an excellent way to store colostrum for feeding as a source of cheap nutrients. It must be handled in clean containers to prevent contamination, and old stainless steel milk vats are ideal. If stored below 20oC, the natural fermentation will make the colostrum acid, stopping spoilage for up to 12 weeks.