Colostrum Quality Matters – Selecting USDA-CVB Licensed Products

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Your calves are the future of your farm, so it is important that you start them off with the best colostrum possible.  While high-quality maternal colostrum is the gold standard, colostrum replacement products have become increasingly popular for their reliability, efficiency, and ease of use – especially as some dams produce excess colostrum, while others may not produce enough colostrum for their calf.

Not all colostrum products are created equal and choosing the right product is essential for the health of your calves.  Before you decide on the best colostrum replacer product for your farm, make sure you are familiar with the USDA-CVB licensing process and what it means for the future earners of your dairy operation.

When Is Colostrum Replacer Necessary?

Following the Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) Standards for Production of Dairy Cows, calves must consume 2-4 quarts of colostrum in the first six hours of life, six quarts in the first 12 hours of life, and at least six additional quarts in the next 24 hours of life.

Ideally, this colostrum would come from the calf’s own dam, but there are many instances on the farm where maternal colostrum is either unavailable or inadequate.  In these cases, supplementing the calf with a colostrum replacer may be necessary to ensure adequate Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is delivered to achieve passive immunity.  Colostrum replacer products are shelf-stable and typically contain 100-150 g of IgG per dose to support the calf’s early nutritional needs.  Colostrum replacer products may be used in place of poorer quality maternal colostrum, in the event of the dam’s illness or death, or as part of a farm-wide infectious disease control plan.

Maternal colostrum quality should always be tested to ensure adequate IgG levels prior to feeding the calf.  To prevent failure of passive transfer, colostrum quality should never be assumed, even in multiparous cows.  However, this process can be time consuming and may not be practical or realistic on the farm.  Other colostrum management issues, such as inadequate volumes of maternal colostrum and an inability to store colostrum may make the use of maternal colostrum inefficient.  In these cases, colostrum replacer can be a reliable source of high-quality immunoglobulins for your calves.

Is Your Colostrum Replacer Licensed?

Once you’ve determined that a colostrum replacer is needed in your farm, it is extremely important to choose the right product.  Unfortunately, not all colostrum replacer products are made the same!  A high-quality colostrum replacer will be licensed with the United States Departments of Agriculture Center for Veterinary Biologics (USDA-CVB).  According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Center for Veterinary Biologics ensures that “veterinary biologics available for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of animal diseases are pure, safe, potent, and effective.”

To receive a USDA-CVB license, a colostrum replacer must be manufactured with IgG from bovine colostrum, rather than serum, and the colostrum must be collected from quality dairy farms.  The colostrum must be processed according to strict USDA guidelines.  The final product is tested for efficacy, purity, potency, and safety, and this data is carefully reviewed by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics before a license can be granted.  Manufacturing sites must be inspected regularly and processes are reviewed in order for the license to be maintained.  Because of this rigorous production and testing process, you can be certain that the USDA-CVB licensed colostrum replacer you are purchasing is safe, effective, and high-quality nutrition for your calves.

What Does a USDA-CVB License Mean?

Having a USDA-CVB license means that a colostrum product has been tested and proven to be safe, effective, pure, and potent.  Only USDA-CVB licensed products are legally permitted to have the label claim “aids in the treatment of failure of passive transfer (FPT)”.  Products that are not USDA-CVB licensed are or protect against failure of passive transfer.

A licensed product has also been tested and shown to be free of coliform bacteria and Salmonella, and the product has met minimum requirements for IgG content to ensure it is adequately potent.  Choosing a colostrum replacer product with a USDA-CVB license means you’ll be supplying your calves with colostrum that is clean, safe, high-quality, and effective.

Choosing the Best Colostrum Replacer Products

To ensure your calves are getting a colostrum replacer product that meets the highest standards, you’ll want to choose a colostrum replacer that is USDA-CVB certified.

One option to consider is La Belle® Colostrum, which provides maternal colostrum replacers and supplements. La Belle® colostrum is USDA-CVB licensed and has been shown to aid in the treatment of failure of passive transfer of immunity as well as aid in the prevention of death associated with Escherichia coli K99.

Licensed Colostrum Replacers – A Cut Above the Rest

When it comes to preventing failure of passive transfer in your dairy calves, you need a high-quality colostrum product that is guaranteed to work.  A licensed colostrum replacer product guarantees that your calf is getting bovine colostrum from a quality dairy that has been tested and proven to be safe, effective, pure, and potent.

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is an animal nutrition consultant for PanTheryx APS LaBelle, manufacturer of La Belle® Colostrum, a USDA-CVB licensed colostrum.