Delmarva Farmer Columnists


The importance of colostrum (Feb. 3, 2015)

Shepherd’s Notebook

By Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Extension

Colostrum is one of the keys to raising healthy lambs and kids.
While it is possible for a lamb or kid to survive without colostrum (in a relatively disease-free environment), the likelihood of disease and death is much higher in offspring that don’t consume enough colostrum.
Colostrum is the first milk that the female produces after giving birth.
It accumulates in the udder during the final few days of pregnancy.
It is also produced during the first 24 hours after birth, but is diluted progressively as milk production increases.
Colostrum is a rich source of nutrients, which aid in heat production and gut development.
More importantly, it contains antibodies to protect newborns against disease. The type of antibodies the colostrum contains depends upon the antigens to which the dam was exposed, via disease exposure or vaccination.
The ability to absorb antibodies is most efficient during the first several hours after birth and is essentially gone by the time the newborn is 24 hours old.
Females vary in the quantity and quality of colostrum they produce.
Well-fed females produce more colostrum than underfed females.
Older ewes and does usually produce better quality colostrum than their younger counterparts.
While weight determines the newborn’s need for colostrum — the general rule-of-thumb is 10 percent of body weight in the first 18-24 hours — environmental conditions can increase or decrease this need. For example, bad weather (cold, wet) increases the need for colostrum whereas lambs and kids born in indoor environments have a lesser need for colostrum.
While it is easy to make sure that an artificially-reared lamb or kid receives enough colostrum (16 ounces for a 10-pound lamb), it is more difficult to know for dam-raised lambs.
Checking the milk supply and observing the nursing behavior of lambs and kids should give an indication as to whether enough colostrum has been consumed.
The best source of colostrum is from the dam. The next best source is from a female on the same premises. Many producers bank colostrum from their animals.
It is common to store colostrum frozen in ice cube trays.
Frozen colostrum retains most of its immunological properties for up to a year. It should be thawed slowly in a warm water bath and fed within 48 hours. Microwaving can damage colostrum.
Goat colostrum can be substituted for ewe colostrum.
Cow colostrum can also be fed to lambs, but about a third more in volume should be fed, since ewe’s milk is much richer in nutrients, especially fat. It is important to note that there are disease risks when using colostrum from other farms. For example, CAE and OPP can be cross-transmitted in unpasteurized colostrum.
It is also likely that the bacteria causing Johne’s disease can be transmitted via colostrum.
Last year, Land O’Lakes began marketing a bovine-origin colostrum “substitute” for lambs and kids.
Unlike the colostrum “supplements” that are on the market, the Land O’Lakes product contains immunoglobulins.

RCPP to launch new era for Delmarva conservation (Feb. 3, 2015)

Keeping the Farm

By Barbara Bowen, Public Affairs Specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Virginia

In a month most associated with new beginnings, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is rewriting the book on how we protect our nation’s vital soil and water resources while also benefiting wildlife, forests, and agricultural lands.
On Jan. 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of the first locally-led conservation projects funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
These 115 projects will engage hundreds of partners across the nation and allow state agencies, private companies, local communities and other non-government partners to invest in conservation while promoting economic growth in agriculture, tourism, and other industries.
Partner contributions of nearly $400 million nationwide more than match USDA’s investment and allow us to do more collectively than we could separately.
In the Delmarva, local knowledge and networks will help drive three state level conservation projects that will help improve Chesapeake Bay water quality and address other top resource concerns in each state.
A Sussex Conservation District proposal focuses on watershed channel restoration projects that stabilize tax ditch banks in Sussex County, Delaware.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will concentrate on targeted conservation easements in Washington and Frederick counties, and the Virginia Department of Forestry will work to increase adoption of forestry practices to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff into the Bay, control invasive species, and restore diminished tree species and habitat statewide.
A vast network of partners will be critical to the success of these three state initiatives and two approved Critical Conservation Area projects that will also benefit Delmarva farmers and forest landowners.
Targeting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, these multi-agency CCA projects will focus on water quality and habitat improvements.
The Nature Conservancy is spearheading outreach activities to implement in-field practices that avoid pollution and edge-of-field and in-stream practices that trap pollution.
Wetland and buffer restoration are among the most efficient practices to trap excess nutrients and sediment at the edge of fields. These practices also provide critical habitat for wetland-dependent plants and animals, many of which are species of concern.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture is leading a second multi-state project that will take a different approach to address these resource concerns.
This proposal seeks to control sediment, enhance habitat, and improve water quality through stream exclusion and buffer practices; manage and control nutrients and sediment runoff through soil health building cover crop practices; and improve nutrient management in animal operations through implementation of sound storage and management practices.
Maryland will focus on manure storage and manure management issues on animal operations. Delaware will focus on cover crop practices and also promote adoption of riparian buffer practices. This proposal currently includes the entire Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and will target grazing land for stream exclusion and crop and grazing land for buffers.
Due to limited funding, no project received the full amount requested.
Award recipients are now beginning to develop their agreements with NRCS to start work in their respective areas. Further details should be available in April 2015.
The tremendous partner response to RCPP has opened a door to a new era of productive public-private partnerships. NRCS plans to keep the momentum going by announcing the next round of RCPP funding availability early this year.
Visit the NRCS national website at to see a full list of the funded projects.