Immunity and trace elements in newborn calves


Calves get their antibodies (that set up their immune system) from the cow via colostrum. This is termed “Passive transfer”. You may hear the term FPT or failure of passive transfer used. This happens when the calves don’t get enough colostrum, quickly enough after birth. At 24 hours post birth the calf can no longer absorb any antibodies, hence the importance of an early feed of colostrum.

Higher growth rates have been observed when calves get adequate colostrum, with lower disease and mortality rates noted.

What else can we do to help rear healthy calves?

Calf rearing is a challenge, and most of the disease occurs in the first few weeks after birth.

The most important things we can do are.

  • Ensure calves are clean dry and comfortable
  • Provide adequate gold colostrum in the first 12 hours of birth.
  • Feed to requirements from milk to weaning.

Recently, Multimin has had trial work done in Canterbury to investigate the effect of treatment on calf survival and disease. It compared calves treated in the first 24 hours of life with Multimin with calves that weren’t treated.

The trial work showed a 52% reduction in disease for calves treated with Multimin, compared to those not treated.

There was a 58% reduction in deaths for calves treated with Multimin compared to those that weren’t.

All these calves came from cows that had been fully supplemented with trace elements prior to calving, again suggesting that the cow is not providing enough trace elements to the new-born calf.

Calf health improved within three days of injection, and this was supported by a second study which showed that white blood cells were rapidly activated and more effective, and that more antibodies to a Salmonella vaccine were produced.  Multimin contains copper, selenium, zinc and manganese for immune support. It is in a chelated formulation that is safe and tissue friendly. It is absorbed into blood within 8 hours and transferred to the liver within 24 hours. It is given at a dose rate of 1ml/50kg, subcutaneous or intramuscular injection.

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