What’s New in Colostrum Management? Dr. Sandra Godden, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Tricia Badillo, Shadycrest Holsteins

Posted: December 12, 2023

Podcast Topic

Dr. Sandra Godden, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and her guest Tricia Badillo, Shadycrest Holsteins talk about What’s New in Colostrum Management.

Guests: Dr. Sandra Godden, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine; Tricia Badillo, Shadycrest Holsteins

Episode 92: What’s New in Colostrum Management?


Dr. Godden opens this episode with a 30,000-foot view of colostrum management. Colostrum management has been a hot topic for decades, and herds still have opportunities to improve. Researchers continue to learn how to advance colostrum management. The basics include the three Qs: quality, quantity, and quickness. Other critical factors are cleanliness and feeding clean colostrum. Dr. Godden also briefly discusses important monitoring measures to assess a colostrum program. Research continues on the value of post-closure feeding of colostrum after the first 24 hours when the gut can no longer absorb antibodies. Several studies have demonstrated improved health, reduced scours, reduced bovine respiratory disease, reduced antibiotic use, and enhanced gain. Tricia gives an overview of their program, where they feed transition milk to their calves. (5:15)

Nutrition, adequate dry matter intake, pre-calving vaccination programs, cow comfort, and dry period length are all factors impacting colostrum quality and, to some degree, quantity. Tricia and Sandra describe a seasonal effect observed for colostrum quantity and quality associated with the fall months. While the mechanism of action is unknown, it is thought that day length and cold stress may play a role. Tricia indicates she is hard-pressed to get a 24 or 25 Brix reading on her herd’s colostrum in October. To prepare for this, during spring and summer, the dairy freezes 26-27 Brix colostrum to have on hand for use in the fall. (14:14)

The relationship between the volume of colostrum produced and its quality is very weak. Dr. Godden recommends using a Brix refractometer to measure all colostrum. Tricia has observed a correlation between the amount of colostrum produced and udder edema, where more edema results in less colostrum. In Tricia’s system, she likes to feed anything over a 24 Brix as a first colostrum and anything from an 18 to a 22 as a second colostrum. They feed four quarts at the first feeding within the first two hours, shooting for the second feeding of two quarts within 8 to 12 hours. (29:18)

Tricia details the calf herd recordkeeping on the farm, which includes weekly serum protein data measured with the same digital Brix refractometer used for colostrum measurements. This data lets the farm see when the program isn’t working and when calves are stressed. The farm also records all treatments and can reflect on previous treatments over the animal’s lifetime. She gives an example of a small problem in the colostrum management program having a large impact. The agitator flaps on the pasteurizer were in the wrong position resulting in denatured colostrum. (35:14)

Dr. Godden details some of the critical points in colostrum management, including adopting a routine monitoring program to measure Brix readings in colostrum and follow up with bleeding calves to measure serum protein. Cleanliness is very critical, and she sees a huge opportunity for farms to clean up their colostrum more. Not only do we not want to feed contaminated colostrum from a pathogen exposure standpoint, but research has also shown that high bacteria counts in colostrum negatively impact the absorption of the IgG into the circulation of the calf. This can be monitored by culturing the colostrum being fed, then backtracking through critical control points to determine where the contamination occurs. Tricia describes some of the important steps she’s taken over her 15 years at Shadycrest to improve their colostrum program. (42:57)

Tricia reminds the audience to remember that your first feeding of colostrum is setting up your milking dairy cow. If you set her up to do poorly because her first feeding of colostrum is poor, you’re going to end up with a poor milking cow. Every calf born on the farm needs to have supreme colostrum inside of them because they’re going to become a supreme cow. Dr. Godden echoes this sentiment: there are long-term economic benefits to the producer for getting their colostrum program right. These include an improved rate of gain, lower age at first calving, and more milk in the first and second lactation. It’s well worth your while to get that job done correctly and get that calf off to a good start. (1:01:32)

If you want one of our new Real Science Exchange t-shirts, screenshot your rating, review, or subscription, and email a picture to [email protected]. Include your size and mailing address, and we’ll get a shirt in the mail to you.

For more information on our Real Science Exchange and Webinars visit our website at Resources – Animal Nutrition & Health (balchem.com).