Livestock industry unites behind #ColostrumIsGold campaign

The “liquid gold” properties of colostrum are being promoted during February as part of a campaign to reduce the need for farm antibiotics.

Dairy and livestock farmers are being urged to unite behind the #ColstrumIsGold campaign, which has been created by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (Ruma) Alliance.

Now in its second year, it emphasises that responsible use of antibiotics starts with newborn calves, lambs and piglets receiving the right amount of colostrum within a couple of hours of birth – something all farmers can achieve.

See also: Pet lambs receiving insufficient colostrum, survey reveals

Colostrum, or first milk, from cows, sheep or pigs is full of antibodies, energy and essential nutrients that can benefit the newborn animal.

Receiving adequate colostrum, quickly enough, could eliminate watery mouth E-coli infection in lambs, halve cases of pneumonia in calves, improve the survival rate in newborn pigs up to weaning age and beyond and support the responsible use of antibiotics.

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 the campaign, which launched on Friday (1 February).

The three organisations hope that by promoting messages through their supply chains, at auction marts and in remittances, they 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. 

What are the recommendations for feeding colostrum?

Calves: Feed high-quality (more than 50mg/ml of antibody) colostrum at 10% of body weight within four – or ideally two – hours of birth. A calf needs to suck for approximately 20 minutes continually to drink enough colostrum in the first feed.

Lambs: Rule of thumb is 210-290ml colostrum/kg body weight in the first 24 hours of life to give a lamb essential levels of natural immunity. But importantly, the first feed should be within two hours of birth.

Pigs: Newborn pigs should be suckled within 30 minutes of birth to get sufficient colostrum on board to meet their energy requirements, and have frequent and easy access to teats thereafter.

Source: Ruma/#ColostrumIsGold campaign

‘All-important feed’

Cattle veterinary surgeon Tim Potter from Westpoint Vets, who works with farms that rear calves for ABP Blade Farming, said: “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 said a combination of this and poor-quality colostrum means less than one-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.” 

Chris Dodds of the LAA is hoping his members can help get the message out through the posters and leaflets in their 110 marts around England and Wales.

Prize draw

The #ColostrumIsGold campaign will run throughout February and into March. A wide range of advice, including technical guides and videos, is available #ColostrumIsGold campaign page 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.