When calving starts, there will be times when a calf cannot feed on its own and will require assistance.

There will also be times when a cow calves early and is lacking milk. Either way, colostrum will have to be manually fed to calf via a stomach tube within the first two hours of life.

When a calf cannot stand to feed, the ideal option is to catch the cow in a headlock and milk her, then feed that colostrum to the calf.

However, trying to milk a suckler cow by hand is no easy task, especially if the cow or heifer calved early or is stressed following a difficult labour.

The chances of getting one to two litres from such animals will be low. But any colostrum collected will be of benefit.


The next-best option is feeding colostrum from another cow in the herd. That means milking colostrum from early calving cows and freezing it.

When collecting colostrum for freezing, store in a zip lock bag or some form of container with a large surface area. Milk cartons are fine, but will take longer to thaw.

With a zip lock bag, the colostrum will freeze in a thin layer that is defrosted in warm water within minutes and fed to the calf.

The warm water will also bring colostrum up to body temperature for feeding. Do not use boiling water to thaw colostrum, as it destroys the proteins in the sample.

Another option is to ask a neighbouring dairy farmer to collect colostrum for you, then freeze it for use at a later date.

The final option is to use a powdered colostrum. It can be expensive to purchase, but easily mixed and fed to the calf within minutes, increasing the chances of the newborn getting to its feet.

Read more

Five safety tips for calving time

Feeding cows in late evening to reduce night calvings