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Harsh summer adds challenges for newborn calves

Published on 06 September 2012

The heat of summer may soon be over but the lasting effects of hot weather are far from behind us. Many cattle producers will begin to see the continued impact of this summer’s hot, dry weather as fall calving season begins.

“The hot weather and drought have created challenges for everyone in the agriculture industry, but it has been particularly tough on the cow herd,” says Bobbi Brockmann, director of sales and marketing with ImmuCell. “This summer, cows have experienced added stress through hot weather and compromised nutrition. These stresses may prevent quality colostrum production through calving.

Nutrition and environmental stress both have a direct impact on colostrum, so producers can expect the quality and quantity of colostrum available to the calf to be diminished this fall. Reduced colostrum quality means that calves may not be able to consume enough antibodies to develop their immune system. Low quantities of colostrum means calves might not get enough nutrition from the cow to get off to a successful start.

“Studies show that, if calves do not consume enough high quality colostrum soon after birth, they are prone to higher levels of pre-weaning sickness and death loss,” says Brockmann. “Producers can minimize the impacts of this summer’s stresses and protect their fall calf crop by providing supplemental immune protection to their newborn calves immediately after birth.”

To best protect calves, producers should consider complementing the colostrum their cows produce with USDA approved antibody products. Concentrated antibody products can be fed to calves at the same time as colostrum and go to the gut to immediately bind and neutralize diarrhea-causing agents, while also being absorbed into the blood stream for extended immune protection.

Antibody products are available in bolus, gel and powder forms. They also are included in some colostrum replacer and supplement formulas for added value.

“Antibody products can provide peace of mind to the producer by providing immediate immune protection to the calf,” says Brockmann. “Concentrated antibody products also provide immunity against specific pathogens such as E. coli and coronavirus so the calf receives the best start possible and the producer’s investment is protected.”

To protect this year’s calf crop with immediate immunity, a program should be in place to deliver immediate antibody therapy for each calf in a way that also reduces labor, risk and subsequent treatment costs. While vaccination programs can help, the newborn calf is born vulnerable and needs immune support as soon as possible after birth. Working closely with a veterinary professional or animal health specialist to develop an appropriate calf disease prevention program that provides immediate immunity is strongly advised.

For additional resources on newborn calf health, visit or go to the Immediate Immunity Facebook page

—ImmuCell news release