Colostrum management for dairy calves

Colostrum is vital to the newborn calf because it contains antibodies (also known as immunoglobulins, or IgG), which provide immunity. It is also rich in energy and nutrients that are essential for growth.

For a good start in life, dairy calves need quality colostrum as their first feed. Contamination during collection, transfer or feeding puts the calf at risk by introducing harmful bacteria when it has no active immunity to fight infection. Here you will find information on feeding the right quantity and quality of colostrum at the right time, as well as good hygiene practices and how to test the quality.

3 Qs of colostrum management

To make sure dairy calves get the most out of colostrum, find out about the three Qs – quality, quantity and quickly. 

Learn more about the importance of quality and quantity of colostrum and how quickly calves should receive it

Colostrum hygiene

Collecting and storing colostrum in a hygienic way means it is less likely to be contaminated. 

Find out tips on the best way to harvest, store and feed dairy colostrum to calves

Using a Brix refractometer

It is important to test colostrum quality so you can decide whether it is good enough to feed to your calves. Find out how to use a Brix refractometer to test the quality of colostrum you have collected. 

How to use a Brix refractometer

Using a colostrometer

It is important to test colostrum quality so you can decide whether it is good enough to feed to your calves. Find out how to use a colostrometer to test the quality of colostrum you have collected. 

How to use a colostrometer

Feeding colostrum to calves

A newborn calf must get the right quantity of colostrum within two hours of birth. If a calf can’t suck a bottle or drink the full amount, you will need to use a stomach tube. 

Find out how to feed a calf using a stomach tube

Useful links

Download the 3 Qs of colostrum management factsheet

Calf management guide

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Calf management guide, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk or call 0247 799 0069.

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