Colostrum is the very first mammary secretion, which changes gradually to the form of normal milk within a few days after kidding. It is rich in fat and proteins that are primarily immunoglobins (Igs). Immunoglobins have the ability to fight against disease-causing organisms and their toxins.
Feeding colostrum soon after birth is extremely important for the survival and growth of newborn kids for three reasons. First, colostrum is the primary source of essential nutrients required for the newborns to maintain their body temperature and water balance. Second, kids that have timely access to colostrum from their mothers and have ingested adequate amounts of colostrum remain active and bleat to catch their mothers’ attention. Early bleating and suckling activities are crucial for the development of maternal bonds between the newborns and their mothers. If a newborn is unable to stand up, suckle and bleat soon after birth, there is slim chance of developing a maternal bond, especially in the case of maiden does. If no maternal bond develops soon after birth, a doe may desert her kids. In this case, there is a high chance of kids’ death unless the caretaker or another doe intervenes. Third, Igs present in colostrum are a source of passive immunity, which gives protection to the newborns against diseases for a few weeks or months, after which kids develop their own immunity. Kids are born with negligible Igs because of the lack of transplacental transfer of Igs from mother to fetus. Kids with no, or negligible colostrum ingestion soon after birth become susceptible to diseases and environmental stress.
It is important that kids ingest enough colostrum, perferably within six hours and definitely within 12 hours of birth, to obtain passive immunity against disease. Colostrum should be ingested within 24 to 28 hours of birth if not consumed earlier. During this time, the intestinal epithelium of kids is permeable to whole molecules of Igs. After this time, epithelium becomes impermeable to Igs molecules, and immunity from the Igs in the colostrum may be limited. Thus,feeding colostrum to kids after 48 hours of birth has little benefit in providing passive immunity to kids.
Normally, does will take care of the kids, and kids will stand up and suckle. However, if anything goes wrong and colostrum intake is hindered, kids should be hepled to suckle or bottle fed with the colostrum from their mothers or from other does kidding around the same time that have excess production. This colostrum will ensure that the kids have passive immunity and increase their chances of survival.
When colostrum is fed to the kids, the bottle should be cleaned properly, and colostrum should be warmed to body temperature (100-102 F or 38-39 C) for feeding. Excess colostrum can be refrigerated and fed later. The quantity of colostrum to be fed at one time depends on the appetite of the kid — normally, at least 4 ounces at the first feeding within six hours of birth unless the kid is weak. Then two feedings of 2 ounces each is recommended.
Colostrum also can vary in percentage of Igs and can be tested for Igs with a colostrometer. Kids will get enough Igs if 2.2 – 2.8 ounces per lb live weight (140 – 175 g colostrum per kg of live weight) is fed in two to four feedings within 24 hours of birth. The first feeding of colostrum ideally should be within two to six hours of birth. Some kids will eat more than other kids, but they should eat 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight per day in colostrum or milk during the first few days after birth. The consumption of milk will increase as the kid gets older.
Contributor: Dr. U. Karki, Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program
Reference: Karki, U. 2002. Peripartum supplementation of maiden does to increase colostrum and milk production, kid growth and capretto quality. M.Sc.Thesis. Pages 85. The University of Western Australia, Australia.