Colostrum at birth is essential for passive transfer of immunity to calves, but colostrum may also be beneficial in helping older calves fight of intestinal disease. Speaking at a Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed dairy veterinary meeting, Amelia Woolums, DVM, MVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVM, University of Georgia, says colostrum added to milk to may provide local protection in the gut from intestinal pathogens.

“Maternal antibodies are only present in the gut for a few days, though when serum antibody levels are high they can be secreted back into the intestine from the bloodstream,” Woolums explains. “If you have antibody present in the gut that can bind the pathogens before they can stick, you should be able to decrease or prevent disease. Antibody-rich colostrum added to the milk can supply antibodies to bind to those pathogens before they attach to the gut wall. If we put a little colostrum in the calf’s milk every day, it may help protect against some local infectious such as rotavirus, coronavirus and Cryptosporidia.”

Woolums suggests about a 1% colostrum-to-milk ratio for as long as 2 to 4 months.