Choose Right: Colostrum Supplements and Replacers – Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus

Posted on June 20, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator
Colostrum management is a detailed process and management protocols lead to great success.  Whether you adhere to these protocols determines whether this is a make-it-or-break-it event in a calf’s life.

For example, what do you do if you don’t have the high-quality colostrum your calves need?  You need a back-up plan, and colostrum replacers and supplements can be a useful tool to give calves the best start possible.

As you browse the shelves of your local farm store or talk to your suppliers, you will quickly find the options are virtually limitless.  How do you decipher which product to use?

To begin, decide whether you need a supplement or replacer.

Supplements are designed to be used in conjunction with fresh colostrum.  They are generally used when farms have enough maternal colostrum, but it is lower in quality.

Supplements usually contain less than 100g of immunoglobulins (Ig) and do not contain additional fat or other nutrients.  Some of these products are designed to be added directly to the colostrum while others need to be mixed with water first and then fed with colostrum.  It is important to follow label directions.

Colostrum replacers
Colostrum replacers are generally used when maternal colostrum is of very low quality or a farm does not have enough volume for newborn calves.  Colostrum replacers are designed to replace the whole colostrum feeding.

These products are mixed with water and fed to the calf at the first feeding.  Colostrum replacers contain 100g of Ig or more. It is recommended to feed a minimum of 100g of Ig at the first feeding.  This may be enough for some farms, but others may need to feed a higher level of Ig.  Testing total serum proteins is the best way to evaluate whether you are feeding enough of any product to achieve successful passive transfer.

Serum-based colostrum replacers
The globulin protein in bovine serum-based products comes from whole blood collected from federally inspected meat processing facilities.  The raw material is spun in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the plasma.

The plasma is then further separated, and biologically active functional proteins are concentrated into an enriched immunoglobulin source called serum globulin.  This mixture is spray-dried to remove moisture, which results in a fine powder that closely resembles dried colostrum in texture, color and scent.

In addition to globulin protein, serum-based replacers and supplements also offer nutrients to calves.  The products contain additional functional proteins plus vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat.  The specific fat ingredient used in serum-based replacers and supplements is a dry fat source similar to what is used in calf milk replacer.

Generally, serum-based colostrum replacers mix better in solution.

Colostrum-based colostrum replacers
Colostrum-based replacers are made by drying the bovine colostrum harvested from fresh cows.  Some replacers made from bovine colostrum contain all the protein and fat of natural bovine-sourced colostrum.  Other colostrum-based replacers will fractionate the Igs and build the colostrum replacer with the necessary fat and other ingredients.

Ease of use
Whether you choose a serum-based or colostrum-based replacer, ease of use is very important.  All of these products need to be reconstituted with water and fed to the calf via bottle or esophageal tube.  When the product is reconstituted, you want it to be all in solution (no dry product separated from the fluid) and mix easily to assure you are getting everything into the calf.

High-quality colostrum is always the best choice if it is available at the farm.  If it is not available, look for a high-quality replacer to ensure passive transfer in your calves.

Category: Calf and heifer nutrition
Colostrum management
Starting Strong - Calf Care