Improving suckler cow colostrum quality

twizzel

Member
We’ve been having a few rumbling issues this winter with calves and rotavirus (which we vaccinate the cows for), navel ill, pneumonia. The cows calve all year round but generally from nov - April. I try to get them scour vaccinated within the 3-12 week pre calving window. Anyhow, the vet was on farm yesterday for a pre movement test, and took a couple of passive transfer blood samples from newborn calves, and turns out they were too low, so obviously aren’t getting full immunity from the vaccine, as colostrum quality isn’t good enough.

The cows have good silage and pre calving mineral buckets, but obviously need something more, as the colostrum quality isn’t great. So just wondered if anyone had any ideas on how to improve it, without causing too big calves (lim and sim cows, gone to a lim bull). We don’t tend to get many cows that have enough to take colostrum off and freeze as spare.

Or what the best quality powdered colostrum is, at the moment we use Downland or ap supplies, but if there is better available, we can get some in 🤔 going to start testing colostrum quality too with a refractometer, rather than just seeing that the calf is sucking and thinking it’s job done. Any practical ideas welcomed…
 

Henarar

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Somerset
Do they have a long enough period dry before calving ?Do you vaccinate for bvd? Are the cows producing enough milk/colostrum? Something wrong somewhere if your going to buy powdered colostrum to top them up.
they need two months dry according to the vet
 

Gulli

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Somerset
What condition are they in? How good is the silage? Are they getting plenty of roughage alongside or is it wet stuff?
Plus the above comments, could be an issue with disease or the dry period management. Worth checking a few more calves as well
 

twizzel

Member
It’s more haylage than silage, it’s always nice dry stuff. Forage wise there’s not much that can be changed, no storage for large amounts of hay.
We normally wean a ruck of calves in Oct for sale in nov, and then later calves once they hit 6 months over the winter they get weaned. BVD vaccinated and tag testing, no positives in 2 years. The cows are in good condition, you wouldn’t want any more on them.

Quantity wise most seem to have enough, maybe heifers are a bit short. But the quality seems to be lacking. And at the moment I’m not sure how it can be improved…
 

Durrus

Member
Had the exact same problem as you a number of years back. Rotavirus and coronavirus was an issue even after vaccination and cows didn't have a sufficient volume of colostrum, all Limmy X. Been feeding soya on the silage, approx 300 to 500g from 4 weeks pre calving and no issues since. Beef cows generally always have better quality colostrum than dairy, its the volume that is generally the issue to ensure the antibodies are passed on!!
 

Gulli

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Somerset
It’s more haylage than silage, it’s always nice dry stuff. Forage wise there’s not much that can be changed, no storage for large amounts of hay.
We normally wean a ruck of calves in Oct for sale in nov, and then later calves once they hit 6 months over the winter they get weaned. BVD vaccinated and tag testing, no positives in 2 years. The cows are in good condition, you wouldn’t want any more on them.

Quantity wise most seem to have enough, maybe heifers are a bit short. But the quality seems to be lacking. And at the moment I’m not sure how it can be improved…
Are you having problems in summer born calves? Could be protein related as said.
 

blackisleboy

Member
Livestock Farmer
Things have improved with us after using cold pressed rape meal in diet in 4-6 weeks pre calving ( 150g/day each)
By pass protein balance is a problem. Worked for ewes too.
 

JohnAC

Member
Livestock Farmer
We had a lot of problems with scour a few years ago even with vaccinating and we started feeding half a kg of soya and 150g of minerals and the difference was unreal havnt had a calf with scour in the last 3 or 4 years touch wood
 

twizzel

Member
Soya seems to be a winner, so may be something to try. I’m not sure how we would feed it though other than put all the cows on it for the winter, maybe top dressed onto bale silage? Dry cows and cows with calves all run as 1 bunch. We have a couple of big pens inside the shed that cows calve down in but they’re only really in them a week either side of calving. Incidentally I put my little flock of ewes onto a ewe nut with more soya and DUP and they’ve been on another level for milk. So just need to work out how we could add soya into the sucklers diet… 🤔


Summer calving don’t have issues with scour but not ideal with contracting work, and try to sell in suckled calf sales tb allowing, so Jan-March is better to calve in, so calves grown on nicely by autumn. In fairness the scour vaccine does keep rotavirus at bay most of the time, and it’s the first time in 3 or 4 years we’ve had a positive rota snap test. The bull running with cows all year round means we are quite often caught out with vaccine timing, as by the time the cows are scanned they’re well in calf and due dates are only rough estimates. Block calving would be a lot easier.
 
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Optimus

Member
Used meaga start in the minerals last year.its meant to improve the colostrum quality.also helps aid calving.had no issues last year so using it again this year.
 

Gulli

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Somerset
Soya seems to be a winner, so may be something to try. I’m not sure how we would feed it though other than put all the cows on it for the winter, maybe top dressed onto bale silage? Dry cows and cows with calves all run as 1 bunch. We have a couple of big pens inside the shed that cows calve down in but they’re only really in them a week either side of calving. Incidentally I put my little flock of ewes onto a ewe nut with more soya and DUP and they’ve been on another level for milk. So just need to work out how we could add soya into the sucklers diet… 🤔


Summer calving don’t have issues with scour but not ideal with contracting work, and try to sell in suckled calf sales tb allowing, so Jan-March is better to calve in, so calves grown on nicely by autumn. In fairness the scour vaccine does keep rotavirus at bay most of the time, and it’s the first time in 3 or 4 years we’ve had a positive rota snap test. The bull running with cows all year round means we are quite often caught out with vaccine timing, as by the time the cows are scanned they’re well in calf and due dates are only rough estimates. Block calving would be a lot easier.
It'll be protein in the diet then as the summer calvers will be getting enough from the grass.
What's stopping you from block calving? Having everything at roughly the same stage will make feeding a lot easier
 

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Man fined £300 for bonfire-related waste offences

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Written by William Kellett from Agriland

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A man has pleaded guilty at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court to waste offences relating to a bonfire next to the electrical sub-station on the Circular Road in Newtownards, Co. Down.

Gareth Gill (51) of Abbot’s Walk, Newtownards pleaded guilty to two charges under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, for which he was fined £150 each and ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy

On June 25, 2018, PSNI officers went to Gill’s yard, where they found a large amount of waste consisting of scrap wood, pallets, carpet and underlay.

Discussion with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officers confirmed the site...
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