Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 6/5/98; 2:00:00PM.

Colostrum: Collection, Handling & Care

Colostrum is that all important life giving first milk produced by a mare for her newborn foal. It is rich with antibodies to give her foal passive immunity against the assault of bacteria and viruses waiting for it in its new environment. Without this transfer your new foal will not likely survive its first week.

Mares produce colostrum for approximately two days after foaling with the richest concentration of antibodies in the first 24 hours. Similarly, the foal is most able to absorb colostrum antibodies in the first 24 hours of life. If a mare has dripped large amounts of milk prior to foaling, or there is another reason to fear that a foal did not receive and absorb enough colostrum, there is a quick and easy blood test to tell. If it is known early enough, steps can be taken to save a foal that has not absorbed enough colostrum.

As a rule of thumb, I collect one or two cups of milk from my new mothers within 12 hours of foaling and add it to my colostrum bank. Be sure the udder is free of foreign matter. You can rinse the bag with warm water, but do not use detergent. It is easiest to milk the mare while her new foal is snacking at the other seat at the diner! She will let her milk down, and be relaxed. She can be milked by a stripping motion of the fingers (like milking a cow) or a syringe prepared as in last months article in Horse Previews works very well.

Collect into a plastic pint container that will freeze easily without risk of cracking. Colostrum can be kept frozen for quite some time. We have a separate freezer in the barn for colostrum so as to protect it from frequent thawing risks. Do not thaw and refreeze colostrum repeatedly. I purge my colostrum stock of everything three years old every fall.

To thaw your colostrum, place the container in a warm water bath that will not seep into the milk. Do not microwave to thaw. That will possibly denature the proteins in the milk and defeat your purpose. Bottle feed if possible at body temperature (100 degrees F).

One of the major reasons to require colostrum is when a mare is bred to a stallion with incompatible blood factors, and her colostrum contains antibodies against the foal she is carrying. Tennessee Walking Horse breeders are lucky in that the registry supplies them with blood typing cards on their horses. This allows breeders to know if they have a mating of possible dire consequence. Most breeders produce a NI foal before they are alerted. A blood test can be performed on the mare to see if she is producing antibodies against her unborn foal a month before she delivers. This allows the breeder to have colostrum from another mare available. The foal must be muzzled, and its mothers milk stripped for the first couple of days to insure the life of the foal. After her colostrum is gone, the foal can nurse mother normally.

Submitted by Janet Franklin, Reinbeau Ranch

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