Low colostrum yield in Jersey cattle and potential risk factors

K. Gavin, H. Neibergs, A. Hoffman, J. N. Kiser, M. A. Cornmesser, S. Amirpour Haredasht, Beatriz Martinez Lopez, J. R. Wenz, D. A. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Consumption of an adequate volume of high-quality colostrum is vital to a dairy calf's ability to survive and become a productive herd member. However, some dairy herds have reported a deficiency of colostrum production, which ranges from a low volume to no colostrum produced, by cows during fall and winter. Little information regarding this phenomenon exists. The purpose of this study was to characterize the syndrome and identify potential risk factors for low colostrum yield. A 2,500-cow Jersey dairy farm was enrolled in a prospective cohort study in May 2016, to evaluate possible effects of photoperiod, temperature, and cow factors on colostrum production. Dairy personnel were trained to collect, weigh, and evaluate colostrum quality. Information on parity, previous lactation length, previous 305-d mature equivalent milk production, and dry period length were collected through the farm's dairy management software. Weather and photoperiod data were also collected. Over the year of enrollment, 2,988 eligible cows calved and had colostrum weights recorded and 38% were primiparous (n = 1,143), 25% were in their second lactation (n = 752), and 37% were in their third or greater lactation (n = 1,093). The overall average colostrum yield was 6.6 kg/cow in June 2016, 2.5 kg/cow in December 2016, and 4.8 kg/cow in May 2017. Multiparous cows had a larger decline in colostrum production between June and December (6.6 to 1.3 kg/cow) compared with primiparous animals (6.5 to 4.2 kg/cow). Overall, average colostrum production decreased by 0.17 kg/cow per week during this time, 0.22 kg for multiparous cows and 0.08 kg for primiparous cows. A logistic regression model was constructed for all cows to evaluate effects of cow factors on low colostrum production (<2.7 kg at first milking). Dry period length, calf sex, singleton or twin, age at freshening, month of calving and previous lactation length were significantly associated with the probability of low colostrum yield (<2.7 kg at first milking). A cross-correlation function analysis between the time series for colostrum yield and photoperiod revealed a high correlation at the time of calving and 1 mo prior, particularly for multiparous cows. A pedigree analysis showed that extreme colostrum yield (low vs. high) followed some sire lines. Low colostrum production in this herd could have an economic effect on the dairy and calf health and appears to have a strong seasonal and, potentially, a genetic component.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • colostrum production
  • dairy cattle
  • pedigree analysis
  • photoperiod

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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