Representation and Education

Colostrum quality in a convenience sample of Irish dairy herds

The objective of this study was to investigate the quality of colostrum produced by Irish dairy cows on
commercial farms and the factors that influence it. A convenience sample of 16 dairy herds was used, from
which 212 samples were collected. An average of 13 samples were collected per farm. Farmers were asked
to collect samples of the colostrum they intended to feed to newly born calves at the point of feeding. The
samples were assessed using a Brix refractometer. There was a wide range in colostrum quality between
samples, with readings ranging from 7 to 32% Brix. Of the samples, 39% were of poor quality (reading of less
than 22% Brix). Time from calving to collection and farm of origin were found to have significant effects on
Brix percentage, whereas parity, bacterial counts and average daily yield were not. A Population Attributable
Fraction (PAF) of 14% was calculated for samples collected within 8 hrs of calving. However, when a cut-off of
2hrs post calving was used, the PAF was 61%. A larger scale study is necessary to further quantify the problem
of poor colostrum quality on Irish farms, as well as work to make farmers aware of the importance of prompt
colostrum collection.


J Donlon
C Hayes
C G McAloon

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Publication Date

2nd May 2018

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