Colostrum: Natures Gold

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It’s sometimes easy to forget how much of a challenge the first few hours are to a new-born lamb. It is the most physiologically stressful time it will face in its life, passing from the controlled warmth and nutrition inside the ewe into an often cold and damp environment where it has to stand and feed quickly to survive. Mortality is a real threat and a poor start will impact its growth and development for months to come.

Maternal colostrum is nature’s solution to this challenge. It is so much more than “first milk”, it’s a highly complex and concentrated formula specifically designed to help the lamb survive and thrive whatever the elements throw at it.

Energy is critical for the lamb at this stage, and with little reserves on board it needs a good source fast. A lack of energy will quickly lead to hypothermia, making standing and feeding harder, resulting in a rapid downward spiral. Maternal colostrum is packed with fat, a concentrated energy source, and this along with protein provides the boost a young lamb needs to get up and sucking consistently. Maternal colostrum also contains many other critical constituents such as growth factors, hormones, minerals and vitamins, all of which are required for healthy growth and development.

Maternal colostrum is also rich in immunoglobulins from the ewe. A lamb is born with no circulating antibodies of its own so this maternally derived immunity will be its defence against infections in the coming weeks. Diseases like watery mouth, joint ill and umbilical infections are a much greater risk in lambs lacking the protection provided by colostrum. But time is of the essence because the lamb starts to lose the ability to absorb immunoglobulins after 12 hours and it’s gone completely by 24 hours.

This means that time is off the essence and a lamb must receive enough high-quality maternal colostrum without delay. There are three golden rules to follow when considering colostrum, simple but critical principles to ensure a lamb gets the best start and continues to thrive.

Quality: It must be high in energy and colostral proteins, sometimes young ewes or those in poor condition cannot produce colostrum of suitable quality.

Quantity: a lamb needs at least 210ml/kg. Again, some ewes can struggle to produce enough.

Quickly: the sooner the better after birth but at least within 24 hours. Weak or cold lambs can struggle to feed and therefore miss the benefits at cost to their health.

It’s always best for the lamb to receive maternal colostrum from its own mother but sometimes this is limited in quality or quantity. That’s where keeping a supply of a high-quality colostrum, such as Nettex Ultra Concentrate, readily to hand is important.

Unlike many other colostrum supplements, Nettex Ultra Concentrate mimics ewe colostrum as it is derived from whole, natural colostrum. It provides colostral fat and colostral proteins which, unlike natural milk, contain unique growth factors, hormones, minerals and vitamins. These are associated with subsequent health, and therefore critical to lamb survival.

Following the 3 Golden Rules of colostrum is crucial to giving lambs the best start, help improve survival and sets them up for the growth that underpins flock productivity.