Ask the Expert: Colostrum Replacers Versus Supplements

Posted on November 5, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
Ann Hoskins works with calf raisers through the Midwest in her role as Vita Plus calf products coordinator.
What is the difference between a colostrum replacer and a colostrum supplement? When should I be using a colostrum replacer?
Colostrum replacers and colostrum supplements are often confused with one another. The role of a colostrum replacer is to completely replace the first feeding of colostrum. A colostrum replacer will have at least 100 g. of Immuglobulins (IgG), which is necessary to achieve passive transfer in the newborn calf. Colostrum replacers also contain fat, protein, vitamins and minerals needed by the newborn calf.
Colostrum supplements usually contain less than 100 g. of IgG and are designed to be fed along with the colostrum to spike the IgG levels in the colostrum. Colostrum supplements can be used to increase the amount of IgG fed to calves when only low or medium quality colostrum is available. However, supplements cannot replace high quality colostrum. Even when a supplement is added to low quality colostrum, the IgG is often absorbed poorly, and antibody absorption is reduced compared to high quality maternal colostrum.
Colostrum replacer contains more immunoglobulin than supplement products and provides more antibodies than poor or moderate quality colostrum. In research trials, calves fed colostrum replacer have performed as well as calves fed maternal colostrum with no differences in IgG levels, efficiency of IgG absorption, incidence of scours or growth rates.
Use a colostrum replacer when:
  • Colostrum intake and/or quality are questionable
  • Labor is a limitation
  • Calves are born at night
  • Producers are taking a proactive role in disease prevention
  • You are concerned with diseases that may be transferred to the calf through maternal colostrum

Category: Colostrum management
Starting Strong - Calf Care