Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension dairy veterinarian Scott Poock has developed a spreadsheet to track and evaluate colostrum management data in dairy calves.

The spreadsheet comes in response to the latest National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) survey by Jason Lombard’s calf specialist group, which recently published a paper on the subject in the Journal of Dairy Science. The researchers favor a more complete evaluation system for calf passive immunity than the current pass-fail test.

In creating the spreadsheet, Poock received input from Lombard and Sandra Godden, professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota. Evaluation of the colostrum management data can help producers reduce calf mortality and disease, Poock said.

The spreadsheet is the latest accomplishment of the MU Foremost Dairy colostrum management system, which exceeds Dairy Calf and Heifer Association’s Gold Standards, he said.

A newborn calf’s first meal is critical to reducing disease and death. The colostrum protects the calf by passive transfer of immunity through immunoglobulin G (IgG) when it is at its highest point.

The IgG protects the calf until its own immune system strengthens. It also provides vital nutrients to get calves off to a healthy start and reduce first-year mortality. This benefit extends into the productive life of the animal as well.

Getting colostrum into the calves shortly after birth reduces levels of pneumonia, scours and death. Calves that do not receive high-quality colostrum right after birth often show poor growth and have higher cull rates.

Poock’s spreadsheet documents data to benchmark the passive transfer success on a farm.

This year, MU production medicine students under Poock’s direction evaluated colostrum management at Foremost Dairy and several other farms. Poock’s students test fresh and frozen colostrum from the calf’s dam, or mother. Research shows that calves receive the most IgG when fed 1 gallon (for an average Holstein calf) of the colostrum within six hours of birth, with another feeding in 12 hours.

The new research from the NAHMS survey raises the bar for maternal IgG levels. Previously, 5.2 to 5.5 grams per deciliter of total protein was considered “good” but now may be “fair,” and 6.2 g/dl or higher may be the new “excellent” category.

Thus, the latest NAHMS survey on calf passive immunity recommends a more complete evaluation using higher standards than the current pass-fail system.

For more information, contact Poock at 573-808-3479 or

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