Colostrum and its importance

Colustrum is the milk the buffalo gives immediately after giving birth to a calf. In telugu, it is called junnupalu (జున్ను పాలు), in tamil – seempaal (சீம்பால்), in kannada – ginnu and in hindi – खीस/नवदुग्ध. The buffalo gives colustrum for up to 4 days after delivery.

Colostrum is the most important and most suitable feed for the newborn calf.  It contains all the nutrients needed along with the vital antibodies. Unfortunately, most dairy farmers use it for making a sweet named Junnu or give it away free to neighbours or some even discard/trash the excess Colostrum milk. Since newborn calf immune system is not developed, it is important for the calf to drink as much colustrum as posssible at regular intervals.

Colustrum is very thick and contains approximately 25% solids, compared to 15% solids in normal buffalo milk.  Colostrum contains antibodies or immunoglobulins (essential proteins) necessary to provide the calf with protection from disease. Much of the extra solid material in colostrum is immunoglobulin, but colostrum is also an important source of protein, sugar, fat, and vitamins A and E.

It is crucial for the survival of the calf that it receives colostrum during the first 6 hours of its life, the earlier the better. The calves should be given colostrum as long as the mother provides it, e.g. three to five days. A calf should receive 5 to 6 % of its body weight as colostrum within the first six hours of life, and another 5 to 6% of its body weight when the calf is 12 hours old.  Colostrum should be fed to the calf several times a day, preferably more than twice a day, at equal intervals.

Surplus colostrum can be stored in fridge and can be given to the calf when required. Use a clean container to store the colustrum in fridge and when feeding, keep the container in room temperature for 30 minutes and then feed it to the calf. If the colustrum was frozen, soak it in warm water before feeding. Never boil the colustrum as it will it destroy the anti-bodies which is required for the calf.

To summarize, feeding colustrum to newborn calf is very important for the survival of the calf. Do not make sweets or waste colostrum. Store excess colustrum in fridge and feed it to the calf as long as possible.