MANY cattle and sheep farmers are reliant, to some extent, on bought-in colostrum. Cargill’s technical nutritionist Bianca Theeruth warns, however, that there can be a lot of variation in quality between colostrum replacers and enhancers in the market, and that consistency and quality, from raw materials right through the production chain, is required.

IT'S vital that this colostrum is a quality product. Immunoglobulin levels are good indication of quality, but these are not published on product labels. So producers are advised to opt for a reputable brand from a manufacturer who offers quality assurance and technical backup.

Tests have shown that IgG levels in calf colostrum supplements can range from 12g up to 35g per feed. And levels in lamb products can be as low as 0.25g of IgG per feed compared to the quality products on the market, with around 4.5g of IgG per feed.

No single factor determines the overall quality of the colostrum but what is vital is the raw material quality and consistency, as well as the manufacturing process and quality control procedures- and producers need to know they are buying from a trusted source with a strong technical background.

It’s good to know where the raw materials are from, but it’s even more important to know that they are consistently sourced from reliable suppliers and that rigorous quality checks are in place – throughout the manufacturing process.

'Country of origin’ doesn’t guarantee colostrum quality, but it is more important that the product is from a consistent source and that it is subject to – and meets – the highest quality control standards.

The disease challenges facing calves and lambs are similar across the world. We have issues with diseases that cause scour in calves and lambs such as Rotavirus, Cryptosporidium and E coli – just as producers do in mainland Europe and in the US. And while there may be subtle differences in the strain, the immune system can still recognise the pathogen and deal with it.

It’s a similar situation with most vaccines. We have access to the same vaccines as our neighbours, but there is enough cross over for the vaccine to be able to be effective against the target organism.

Producers should look at the product carefully and at its reputation. The colostrum should have a good track record on farm, and it must consistently perform to expectation. Remember that the first few days of life are vital, so it isn’t the time to take shortcuts.

The key considerations when buying a calf or lamb colostrum are

n work with a trusted supplier/manufacturer;

n ensure high-quality raw materials are being used – a reputable supplier will have strict selection criteria and quality control procedures as a standard;

n check that quality control is tip top – the end product should be tested and available;

n technical service and back up is available should it be needed;

n the products on offer have a tried and tested track record and they perform consistently.