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Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:58 am
by scheff
I'm curious at what stage a cow's colostrum is produced for the new calf. Reason for asking is that I have one cow with a calf that are real loners and never came to the pens so I could properly wean. Finally got them separated last weekend (calf is 10 months old and was still nursing). I noticed then it was the momma cow that needed to be weened, as the calf couldn't care less, but the momma sure wasn't happy about it. I get the feeling that if I hadn't separated them the momma cow would have continued nursing this calf indefinitely. So that makes me wonder when the colostrum is produced - and if I hadn't caught them in time, if the momma would have fed all the colostrum to her yearling? Is it produced at or near birth, or earlier? Thanks in advance!

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:38 pm
by kenny thomas
If she is still a month or more off she should be fine.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:13 pm
by scheff
Thanks KT. That's what I was thinking/hoping - that a month should be long enough. This pair is an odd couple that really never joined the herd - so hasn't been easy to get them penned. Thought for a while I'd just let them be and when it came time for the momma to have the next calf she would disappear into the woods for a while to birth and the calf would get the colostrum, but not so sure, as she was never far from existing calf. Let's assume worse case scenario and if I'd never gotten them separated, would yearling calf get all the colostrum, or is more made right up until birthing? Hypothetical question, just curious if cows would be smart enough to "self wean" in time for the new calf, or if that is a losing proposition. Guess it might just depend on the cow... ?

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 3:34 pm
by wbvs58
We do worry about colostrum to the newborn and rightly so however in relatively unmanaged herds in extensive areas where calves are not weaned or branding is only done once a year they seem to sort things out OK but they do accept a certain loss in calves.
I have neighbours that only have a few cows but never wean their calves and they have not had any losses.

Ken

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:37 pm
by scheff
Interesting, thanks Ken. Would seem nature would take over at some point, but I'd rather not take those chances.
Appreciate the feedback.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:02 pm
by TCRanch
And yet I've had cows (1st calf heifers are the worst) that are sooo close to calving/wanting their baby/maternal instincts in high gear and they'll let other calves, even other cows nurse. Had to separate the hormonal mama & supplement the calf with colostrum replacer, just to make sure.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:28 pm
by scheff
Yeah TC, I could imagine that happening as well. This is an older cow bought at the barn - and this is the first calf she's had in my property though. She sure never got out of eyesight of it the last 10 months so glad I got them separated. She's in with the heifers now so all should be good and hoping she calves again in the next 60 days - looks like getting close already. I bet this one would let her existing (nice looking Charolais bull calf) suck while she's dropping the new one.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:08 pm
by farmerjan
I have seen cows let calves nurse right up to calving a new calf and then keep right on letting both nurse. The calf will be deprived of the colostrum in that case. Glad you got them separated.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:16 pm
by scheff
Thanks Jan, I'm pretty sure that would have been the case here. I usually wean at 7 months or so, sometimes earlier if the cow looks like she needs a break - just couldn't do it with this pair though. So not to kick a dead horse or ask stupid questions... this problem seems to be solved, but still kinda curious if there is any evidence of when the colostrum is actually produced for the new calf. Seems like if it isn't produced at the very last stage before calving, there is a high risk of it being stolen by existing calf, other calves, cows, etc...
Any thoughts on that?
Thanks again all, love this forum.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:04 pm
by Lucky_P
Peak colostral antibody levels are 'set' at about 8 weeks before calving... so, if you're vaccinating to try to pass immunity on to the calf, you need to do it at least 3 months before calving - not 1 month before, as some vaccine labels (wrongly) recommend.
By the same token, if you have an unweaned calf (or a thief) nursing a cow anytime between 8 wks before, and calving day... the unborn calf will not get the full benefit of the antibodies that were intended for it.

Re: Colostrum production?

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:37 pm
by scheff
Great information, thanks Lucky!