Colostrum, Mother Nature’s Strong Choice—Why it’s Worth to Follow.

Published on: July 10, 2020
Author: Biochem Team
Time: 5 min read

Calves, piglets, goat kids, lambs and foals are born with an immature immune system and an agammaglobulinemia. Consequently, new-borns are prone to infectious diseases (e.g. respiratory tract diseases and diarrhea) after birth. Colostrum, the first nursed mammary secretion, is life-essential directly after birth and a real superfood for the offspring. It provides passive immunity (e.g., immunoglobulins, leucocytes), nutrients and more than 50 known bioactive substances for an optimal start in the extra-uterine life. 

Passive transfer of immunity.

Immunoglobulin (Ig), also known as antibodies, are y-shaped glycoproteins of the adaptive immune system, which target highly specific pathogen patterns in a key-lock mechanism. After immunoglobulins have attached to the pathogen, they alert other immune components to eliminate the invading pathogen. In the mammalian immune system, 5 different immunoglobulin classes appear: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgM and IgD. 70 – 80% of the total protein content of colostrum are immunoglobulins, from which are 85 - 90% IgG and 10% IgA, IgM.

The placenta, a semi-permeable barrier, prevents the transmission of immunoglobulins from the dam to the fetus. Therefore, the intake of immunoglobulins through the colostrum, called passive immunisation, is essential to protect the offspring against invading pathogens until the own immune system has developed. In contrast, active immunization is the qualification of own immune cells and antibodies as a response to a survived infection or vaccination.

During the first 24 – 36 hours after birth, immunoglobulins are transferred through the new-borns’ enterocytes from the intestinal lumen to the bloodstream by an unspecific receptor-mediated mechanism. The amount as well as the time of colostrum intake correlates strongly to the serum IgG concentration and consequently to disease susceptibility (Fig. 1a): the higher the serum IgG level, the lower the disease incidences, morbidity and mortality rates (Fig 1b).

Figure 1: (a) Early colostrum intake gained better immunoglobulin absorption.

Figure 1: (b) Calf survival is positively correlated with immunoglobulin level.

Colostruma magical milk.

Compared to mature milk, colostrum does not only provide passive immunity but also delivers highly concentrated ingredients for the development of various organs including the immune- and gastrointestinal system. Besides the mentioned immune factors (e.g. immunoglobulins, leucocytes) the antimicrobial substances like lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase and lysozyme are the first line of defense against invading pathogens. These enzymes inhibit growth and kill microbial species (e.g. bacteria, viruses) and infected cells. Moreover, growth factors, above all IGF-I, IGF-II and EGF, and prebiotic active components (e.g. milk oligosaccharides) support cell proliferation, differentiation and protein synthesis in the gut. Sufficient and early colostrum supply promotes nutrient uptake, results in longer villi and a better repair rate of damaged intestinal cells.

For an energetic start in life and to facilitate the drastic change from intra-uterine to extra-uterine diet, colostrum contains high nutritionally valuable ingredients (fat, proteins, vitamins A, D, E and B). Fat and lactose are essential energy sources for the thermoregulation and body temperature, not only in “high risk” calves and small ruminants.

Colostrum management.

Even in good managed dairy and beef farms 15 – 40% of calves in North America, Australia and Europe are diagnosed with failure of the passive transfer due to poor colostrum management. To obtain an adequate immune status (> 10 g/l IgG and > 5 g total serum protein) calves must acquire 4 litres of good quality colostrum (> 50 g/l IgG) within the first 6 hours after birth (Fig. 1a). Either a second colostrum feeding at the latest 12 hours and colostrum consumption in the first days of life shows beneficial long-term effects on health and productivity.

Not only the colostrum quality and intake but also a high hygiene standard is important for a successful passive immune transfer. It is not always possible to provide maternal or farm’s own colostrum of high quality. In such cases colostrum replacers or supplements are applicable. Such bottlenecks are low quality or low quantity of maternal colostrum, prevention of disease transmission (e.g. Johne’s disease, infectious diarrhea), high-risk neonates (weakness, small ruminants, cold/wet/windy weather, difficult birth, twins) and when it is questionable whether a calf has consumed a full dose of colostrum.

Colostrum powdera nature borne concept, not only Ig donor.

To improve colostrum management and calf health B.I.O.Ig, a pure bovine colostrum powder, produced from high-quality first-day colostrum, is used against the failure of passive transfer. It contains a standardised content of 15%, 20% or 30% immunoglobulins against a wide spectrum of diseases. During the manufacturing process colostrum for 20% and 30% product is skimmed, whereas no separation is necessary for the 15% product. Natural immunological active and bioactive substances are preserved to ensure multiple support for young animals’ development:

  • Strengthens passive immunity

  • Supports the development of the immune system

  • Broad support of local immunity

  • Improves the development and regeneration of intestinal cells

  • Laxative effect

The efficiency of B.I.O.Ig as colostrum replacer in ensuring a successful passive immunization was tested in calves and goat kids without using maternal colostrum. In all trials, good absorption rates result in the adequate immune status of the animals. But B.I.O.Ig has more benefits than only the effective transfer of passive and local immunity:

  • Safe: free of Johne’s disease, Salmonella, Bovine Leukosis virus, Brucellosis, foot-and-mouth disease

  • B.I.O.Ig is free from IBR-causing BHV1-field virus and antibodies against BHV1-field virus

  • Natural full colostrum – No additional or artificial components (e.g. plasma, whey)


Good colostrum management is a rewarding investment in the future of young animals, as optimal nutrient and immune supply right from the beginning assures a good development. B.I.O.Ig, a natural bovine colostrum powder with a high immunoglobulin content, can replace or supplement the maternal colostrum in difficult situations.

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