I have written this article because we were having difficulty understanding the relationship
The importance of colostrum
newborn kids getting or not getting colostrum
how fast and how much colostrum they needed
when to vaccinate the dam and when to vaccinate the kids.
The following information came from three goat medical books and I tried to simplify
the language and combine it together. I may or may not have succeeded.
Antigen is the medical name for a substance that when introduced into the body, stimulates
an antibody (a disease fighter). The substances that can generate antibodies can
be from bacterial toxins and bacteria. I will use the word “bacteria” instead of
“antigen” in the rest of the article for easier reading.
Antibody is a disease-fighting protein. There are other medical names but I will
only use the word “antibody” in this article for ease of reading. Antibodies are
produced by animals in response to bacteria or bacterial toxins in the body and are
very specific for that specific bacteria problem. Bacteria, in the presence of its
specific antibodies is destroyed or neutralized. The end result is the goat becomes
immune and is protected from that specific bacteria problem.
One way to produce antibodies (immunity) is to vaccinate, but that takes time and
newborn kids need protection immediately. An alternate method to produce immunity
is to provide the actual antibodies in a ready-to-use form such as in colostrum.
This is known as passive immunity. It provides immediate treatment or prevention
of a specific threat, like bacteria or a toxin capable of causing diseases in the
kids. Remember the passive immunity protection will be short-term, lasting only about
ten to fourteen days. For long-term protection, vaccinations should follow. Colostrum
is an example of passive immunity as opposed to active immunity produced by vaccines
that require a minimum of two to four weeks before the body can produce its own effective
No antibodies pass between the placenta to the fetus. Therefore newborn kids depend
on intestinal absorption of ingested antibodies from the colostrum to provide a ready
supply for attacking of bacteria for the first weeks of life. A newborn kid’s body
is not equipped alone to provide an adequate defense against acute infections for
approx the first 6 weeks of life. That is the reason good colostrum is required to
help protect newborn kids until their own immunity system is ready. Adequate passive
transfer requires delivery of a sufficient quantity of good-quality colostrum into
the gastrointestinal tract as well as adequate absorption of antibodies from the
colostrum into the blood.
Each kid should receive colostrum within the first 6 hours of birth, preferably
during the first hour, either directly fro the dam or by bottle. Newborn kids need
to receive 10-20% of their body weight in colostrum within 3-12 hours after being
born. 15% of body weight for an 8 lb kid would mean around 18 oz needed during the
12 hour period. Within hours of being born, the kid’s ability to utilize the colostrum
is reduced and the quality of the colostrum from the doe becomes poorer, as she begins
to produce normal milk. This means it is critical for newborn kids to get their colostrum
as soon as possible.
The concentration of antibody in colostrum declines rapidly after the first 6-12
hours after birth. Colostrum absorption decreases rapidly from birth through 36
hours of age. In calf and lamb, maximal absorptive capacity is believed to last for
around 6 hours after birth, with all absorptive capacity absent by 24 hours. Goat
kids may be able to effectively absorb antibodies for a longer period, perhaps as
long as four days. The fact that the concentration of antibody in colostrum decreases
rapidly after the first 6-12 hours also underscores the importance of early ingestion.
Colostrum also contains large quantities of fat-soluble vitamins that do not cross
the placenta. The most important of these are vitamins A, D, and E, which are important
in bone development and the immune of inflammatory response.
Failure of kids to absorb adequate antibodies in the immediate period after being
born predisposes young goats to serious infectious disease problems and high mortality
Failure to suckle adequate colostrum at birth contributes significantly to the chances
of early kid deaths. In a survey, 92% of colostrum-deprived kids that died did so
within two days of birth. Another study of antibody levels measured in newborn kids
eighteen hours after ingestion of colostrum and an average amount was determined.
In the next two months, mortality rates of kids with less than the average amount
of antibodies was 44% but was only 3.8% for those with higher levels of antibodies
than the average
There can be problems with newborn kids getting the required quality colostrum.
Ensuring cloistral quality is best done through good nutrition, health care and vaccination
of the dam. The doe experiences an increase in antibody production, in the weeks
preceding kidding and antibodies are transported into the colostrum. Older does are
likely to have a wider experience with diseases they have become immune to compared
to young does and provide a more diverse spectrum of protective antibodies in their
colostrum that will be passed on to their kids. Administration of vaccines six weeks
prior to kidding, followed in two weeks with a booster, provides the highest quantity
of protective antibodies in the colostrum. Breeders need to ensure other kids do
not start nursing from the doe prior to her kidding and that the doe is not milked
to release pressure on the udder. Pregnant does have been known to steal another
doe’s kid before having her own. These actions start to dilute the colostrum even
before the kids are born.
Based on studies of the disappearance of certain antibodies from kids after colostrum
ingestion, the half-life of passively acquired antibody is approx 12 days, with some
antibody still detectable in most kids between 5-6 weeks of age. Persistent antibodies
may inhibit active immunization with vaccines. When colostrum-fed kids were immunized
with a similar vaccine their dams had been previously immunized with, they showed
no measurable antibody response to immunizations at birth and four weeks of age and
responded only at 8 weeks of age when passive antibody levels to the protein had
diminished. The passive antibodies cancel out the active antibodies from the vaccine.
Therefore it is best to wait until eight weeks old to vaccinate kids if the dam had
been vaccinated just prior to her kidding so the two don’t cancel each other.
There can also be problems from the kids getting the initial colostrum. Problems
in ingestion can arise from weak and sick kids, competition with other kids, and
separation of a kid from the dam directly after being born Goats are prone to many
of the causes of failure of passive transfer because of their tendency to have numerous
offspring; the earliest nursing, most vigorous offspring may ingest more than their
share of colostrum.
If colostrum is unavailable, closing the gut as quickly as possible by feeding
milk, maintain high standard of hygiene and possibly administering preventive antibiotics
offer the greatest prospects for preventing infectious disease.