Passive immunity in beef calvesIn a comprehensive fact sheet Disease Protection for Baby Calves, Glenn Selk, PhD, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cow-calf specialist, discusses colostrum, passive transfer, pre-calving nutrition immunology and more.

Download and share the full fact sheet with your beef clients as they prepare for calving season and management of newborn calves.


Selk says management factors that enhance the development of passive immunity in newborn beef calves include:

1. Provide proper replacement heifer development pro­grams and adequate prepartum nutrition for the cow herd to ensure heifers are in a body condition score of 6 and cows are at least in a 5 body condition score at calving.

2. Breed heifers to bulls that sire low birth weight calves and cows to bulls that sire moderate birth weight calves to reduce the incidence of dystocia.

3. Offer early obstetrical assistance to heifers or cows observed in labor so that the baby calf is not allowed to become extremely acidotic, weakened, and there­fore unable to nurse the colostrum or have inhibited immunoglobulin absorption.

4. Provide baby calves that are born to first calf heifers at least 2 quarts of fresh or thawed frozen colostrum within the first 6 hours of life and another 2 quarts within another 12 hours. This is especially important for those calves born to heifers that have very little first milk or baby calves too weak to nurse naturally.

5. Thaw frozen colostrum slowly in a microwave oven or warm water so as to not allow it to overheat. There­fore, denaturation of the protein does not occur.

Read the full fact sheet here.