Feeding Colostrum by Bottle or Esophageal Feeder: Does it Matter?

Posted on November 8, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
Colostrum management is of critical importance for maximizing calf health. Multiple factors influence passive transfer of immunity from colostrum, including quality, quantity, quickness and cleanliness. Current recommendations call for the first colostrum feeding to be delivered within four hours of birth. It’s normally fed via nipple bottle and/or esophageal feeder. The most recent NAHMS (2007) survey indicated that 52 percent of heifer calves were fed colostrum via bucket or nipple bottle, while 12.4 percent of heifer calves were administered colostrum using an esophageal feeder.

Does method of feeding affect passive transfer of immunity?
During normal suckling, esophageal groove closure results in the colostrum bypassing the forestomach (reticulum and rumen) to the omasum and  abomasum, which results in shorter transit time to the small intestine where IgG absorption occurs. Conversely, an esophageal feeder does not trigger esophageal groove closure, resulting in colostrum deposition into the forestomach. This delay in colostral IgG transit to the site of absorption may coincide with the progressive decline in IgG absorption efficiency over time, resulting in lower serum IgG concentrations.
The objectives of a recent study were to determine whether the method of colostrum feeding (nipple bottle or esophageal feeder) and the volume of the first colostrum feeding (1.5 versus 3 liters) impacted passive transfer of immunoglobulin G (IgG) in newborn dairy bull calves (Godden et al., 2009).
The study showed that, for calves fed a small volume of colostrum containing 100 g IgG, feeding with an esophageal feeder led to significantly greater incidence of failure of passive transfer. Colostrum feeding method did not affect passive transfer indices in calves fed a large volume of colostrum and 200 g of IgG. That means that increasing IgG mass by feeding more volume lessens the impact of feeding method on indices of passive transfer. In other words, this study confirms that increasing the amount of IgG fed will produce more consistent results.
Adapted from an article originally included in 2010 FrontLine by Milk Products, LLC.

Category: Colostrum management
Starting Strong - Calf Care