#ColostrumIsGold campaign to slash antibiotic use

UK cattle, sheep and pig sectors are teaming up during February to promote the ‘liquid gold’ properties of colostrum in reducing the need for antibiotics in farm animals and improving their lifetime performance.
calendar icon 22 January 2018
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The #ColostrumIsGold campaign, created by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, will underline that responsible use of antibiotics starts with newborn calves, lambs and piglets receiving the right amount of colostrum within a couple of hours of birth – something all farmers have the potential to achieve.

A wide range of organisations will be releasing information and promoting best practice throughout the month, mainly based around getting the 3Qs – ‘quality, quantity and quickness’ – of colostrum delivery right.

The Farm Antibiotics information website will be signposting to these resources, as well as highlighting hints and tips for more effective colostrum management.

RUMA chairman, Gwyn Jones, says that as a farmer, he recognises the pressures at lambing and calving, and just how easy it can be to take shortcuts with the all-important first feed. However, he claims it was a wake-up call when he realised the long-term impacts of colostrum on development:

Calves receiving insufficient colostrum at birth are more than twice as likely to develop respiratory disease, and can have mortality rates as high as 13%.

He adds:

Too often we see the animal start to suck or we give it a feed, and don’t think about the actual quantity of colostrum it consumes immediately after birth.

All these factors have an enormous impact on the levels of antibodies in the bloodstream 24 hours later, and on the subsequent health of the animal and its need for antibiotic treatment during its whole life.

Better colostrum management is an incredible opportunity – not to ensure better health for the future, but cut antibiotic use and produce a more valuable animal for onward rearing.

Veterinary lead at AHDB and pig specialist, Dr Mandy Nevel, says baby pigs need colostrum too, to maintain body temperature as well as protect them against disease:

Baby pigs are born wet and with very little energy reserve. Ideally, they need to get a feed in within the first 30 minutes to prevent hypothermia. This early feed will also provide essential immunity, giving them the best chance of survival in their first few weeks of life.

Sow vaccination is the best way to boost antibody levels in the colostrum. That is why piglets who receive good levels of colostrum early will also be the healthiest at weaning. That extra care in the first hours of life will really make a difference.

Dr Nevel includes post-weaning diarrhoea and respiratory disease as longer-term threats for piglets receiving insufficient colostrum at birth.

Colostrum really is a golden opportunity to secure lower antibiotic use and a healthier animal for its whole life.

Farmers and vets looking for more information should search for the #ColostrumIsGold hashtag on Twitter, or go to the Farm Antibiotics website to be signposted to useful tools, resources and case studies from 1 February.

As reported by RUMA

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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