Is colostrum the ‘golden ticket’ to driving down antibiotic use?
UK swine farmers are being urged to recognize the value of giving newborn pigs good-quality colostrum as part of industry efforts to drive down antibiotics use.
The #ColostrumIsGold campaign aims to promote the “liquid gold” properties of colostrum in reducing the need for antibiotics on farm, as well as improving the lifetime performance of animals.
Created by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, the campaign will highlight that using antibiotics responsibly starts with newborn livestock getting the right amount of colostrum within hours of being born — something all farmers can achieve.
Running throughout February, the campaign will see a number of industry organizations giving their tips and advice on getting colostrum delivery right.
Achieve value by avoiding shortcuts
RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones said pressures during farrowing mean that it is easy to take short-cuts with the all-important first feed.
But he said failing to give the right amounts of colostrum at birth could lead to respiratory issues and higher mortality rates.
“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,” he said.
“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 only to ensure better health for the future, but also to cut antibiotic use and produce a more valuable animal for onward rearing.”
Boosting immunity and survival
Dr. Mandy Nevel, veterinary lead and pig specialist at the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), said colostrum is vital for newborn pigs to maintain body temperatures and protect them against disease.
“Baby pigs are born wet and with very little energy reserve, so ideally they need to get a feed in within the first 30 minutes to prevent hypothermia,” she said.
“This early feed will also provide essential immunity, giving them the best chance of survival in their first few weeks of life.”
Nevel said sow vaccination is the best way to improve antibody levels in the colostrum.
“That is why piglets that receive good levels of colostrum early will also be the healthiest at weaning,” she added. “That extra care in the first hours of life will really make a difference.”
Nevel includes post-weaning diarrhea 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,” she added.