Making sure that newborn calves have enough colostrum to protect them from diseases is an essential aspect of colostrum management. By doing follow-up exams and monitoring both colostrum quality and effectiveness, Dr. Geert Hoflack believes that veterinarians can play an active role in ensuring that calves are better protected.
By using simple tools such as a Brix refractometer during exams when calves are two or three days old, Dr. Hoflack feels vets can easily measure both colostrum quality and serum IgG levels, thus ensuring that the calves have sufficient amounts of antibodies for protection. With the measurement from the refractometer, vets can assure farmers that their calves do indeed have the right amount of antibodies. Or, if the serum IgG levels are too low, vets can help farmers see what the reasons may be, and give them advice on how to improve colostrum management.
Another benefit of these follow-up exams, according to Dr. Hofflack, is that veterinarians can also help farmers understand which calves are at risk of getting diseases or even dying, as those with a failure of passive transfer are at a much higher risk for health issues. With that knowledge, farmers could either isolate those calves or get them better treatment, thereby improving the overall calf rearing results on the farm.
With the current desire to use the lowest amount of antibiotics as possible, making sure that calves start with good neonatal immunity would mean that farmers would know which calves have a lower risk of getting sick and therefore would have a lower need for antibiotics. While some veterinarians already do check for colostrum effectiveness in their follow-up exams, Dr. Hofflack believes that the more vets who do such exams, the better!