How to Select the Best Bovine Colostrum
Bovine colostrum is a sought-after supplement whose growing popularity stems from research on its important contributions to human athletic performance and health, particularly immune support and cellular growth factors.
After finding success as a human supplement, bovine colostrum now joins the equine and canine supplement industries as one of many therapeutic foods that can be fed to horses and dogs. With its popularity, marketers are seeing a rich opportunity without needing to fully understand the raw material. Consumers unwittingly purchase colostrum based on price and claims. When the supplement isn’t effective, the animal misses out on important nutrition, and the owner wastes money.
At the time that BioStar introduced Colostrum-38 to the market, bovine colostrum was primarily used for milk replacement in foals and puppies. I spent considerable time researching published studies coming out of Australia and New Zealand about bovine colostrum’s benefits for athletes, particularly how it regulated the immune system and helped with tissue repair.
What to Look for
• IgG Percentage: Make sure you know the percentage of IgG in the colostrum you purchase. This information is often found on a company’s website, but if it’s not on the product page or included in the description, let that be a warning sign. High-quality colostrum is defined by a high percentage of IgG.
• Ethical Sourcing: Find out the ethics of the sourced colostrum. Many companies publish this on their product page, and if you don’t find it there you will need to ask the company a lot of questions.
• Processing: How the colostrum is processed is an important key to the effectiveness of its various nutritional components. The descriptor “freeze-dried” may be the result of high-heat processing and then freeze-drying, or freezing and thawing followed by freeze-drying. The best processing for colostrum and its growth factors and nutritional components is low-temperature flash pasteurization followed by freeze-drying.
Grades of Bovine Colostrum
Colostrum is graded based on its percentage of immunoglobulin G (or simply “IgG”). Immunoglobulins are known as antibodies. They play a critical role in the immune response by recognizing and binding to antigens such as viruses and bacteria. Immunoglobulins are also the principal agents that protect the gut mucosa against pathogenic microorganisms.
Ethics of Bovine Colostrum
Harvesting colostrum from cows who have just given birth raises several ethical questions. Of course, each person has their own concept of what is ethical, and what I find unethical may not be unethical to someone else.
Dairy cows produce more colostrum than their calves require. Mature dairy cows can produce 80-100 pounds of colostrum in four days and calves consume a third of that amount. Bovine colostrum is harvested when the cow has calved. Some companies take colostrum in the first 6 hours after birth, while others wait 24-48 hours before taking colostrum because they want to ensure that the calf gets the first colostrum of their mother’s milk.
We source our Colostrum from a small dairy cooperative in Canada that meets our ethical needs. Calves stay with their mothers for 6-8 months, because the quality of the milk and colostrum is so much higher when the cows aren’t stressed. The colostrum is collected 24-48 hours after birth, and only a small percentage is taken so that the calf has plenty of milk.
The colostrum from this cooperative is antibiotic-free, rBGH free, rBST free, and non-irradiated.
In Canada, irradiation is not permitted on milk products, so our colostrum is irradiation-free. The cows and calves are pasture-raised and supplemented with alfalfa hay and grain.
BioStar does not purchase colostrum from companies who separate calves from their mothers a day or two after birth and raise them as veal calves, which is common in the US.
We do not purchase colostrum from cows that have never seen a blade of grass (let alone daily time spent on pasture) and have been given bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or the biotechnology-created growth hormone bovine somatotropin (rBST).
We do not accept colostrum that has been irradiated — meaning treated by exposure to isotropic radiation. Irradiated foods can cause health problems in lab animals, including cancers, chromosome abnormalities, and even premature death. Irradiation affects vitamin content of food; particularly vulnerable are vitamins A, E, C, K, B1, B3 and B6, which can be destroyed by irradiation.
In the end we did not find a single US supplier of bovine colostrum that met our ethical criteria, but luckily we found a Canadian source who does meet our ethical standards.
Colostrum is becoming a commodity item, meaning there are companies who just want to sell some kind of colostrum to make money from unsuspecting consumers. Remember that bovine colostrum’s quality is extremely important for supporting immune challenges and tissue healing in horses and dogs.
About the Author: With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger Montague knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar US in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to Grand Prix.