The first two weeks of a calf’s life are critical to their lifelong health and resilience. In the first 24 hours, calves depend on four quarts of high-quality colostrum to impart key nutrients and antibodies that spur development and jumpstart their immune health. But this first day of nourishment isn’t a catch-all. The quality of the subsequent milk and any additional supplements they receive fortify their ability to fight off everything from mycotoxins to pneumonia.
That’s why producers can’t take chances with their early calf feedings. Though kelp for cattle has proven effective for adults, many producers ask us whether we see similar results for pre-weaning calves. Research suggests that there’s a positive impact for both the calves and lactating cows when they consume Ascophyllum nodosum. Before you add seaweed to your calf colostrum supplement, here’s what the research shows.
In a study of the effects of seaweed-based calf colostrum supplements on male Holstein calves, there were some promising results for the immune response of the experiment group. The 40 Holstein calves were split into two groups over a 27-day trial period: one group that was fed four liters of bovine milk twice a day and another group that supplemented 5% of their meals with seaweed dry mass.
At the end of the trial period, the plasma of the control and experimental calves were measured, showing higher levels of two proteins in the seaweed-fed Holsteins: fibrinogen and serum amyloid A.
With higher levels of fibrinogen, calves benefited from more efficient blood clot production to heal wounds and stop bleeding. In addition, serum amyloid A enabled calves to synthesize several cytokines, which coordinates the immune response; and perform chemotaxis, which moves around white blood cells in the presence of bacteria and fungi.
Though heifers can have some difficulties with their first-trim calving, most cows have few problems with subsequent births. However, increasing heat stress in dairy cows from rising global temperatures impairs the calving and pre-weaning processes.
Overbearing heat makes the dissipation of bovine body heat difficult, especially for lactating cows that are already producing a great deal of metabolic heat due to pregnancy and calf feeding. For these cattle to produce high-quality colostrum for calves to consume, they need nutritious feed that stimulates their own production and immune system.
In this way, feeding lactating cows seaweed can work as a preemptive calf colostrum supplement. Studies of cattle in which 0.25% of their feed included Tasco® products showed that even under high heat stress, lactating cows had lower skin and core temperatures without impacting their milk production. That way, your cows will stay strong and productive as they help nurture the next generation of high-performing, nutrient-rich cattle into the world right from the start.