By Dr Charlie Blackwood BVSc MANZCVS

Giving your calves good quality colostrums is the most critical step in successful calf rearing – see article on calf rearing.

A BRIX REFRACTOMETER is the best way to give your calves the best quality colostrum.

Why do I need One?

It is impossible to tell by looking how good the colostrums is. As discussed in the calf rearing article, high quality colostrums is critical. The BRIX refractometer has taken the place of the colostrometer that we recommended for many years. A refractometer, uses light to measure the quality of the colostrums (and sugar content of grapes, grasses etc in other fields).

Brix Refractometer

There are two types of Brix refractometers- optical and digital. The optical ones are a bit harder to use but are cheap and robust so are a good way to start. If you find it to be great you can get a digital one which is easier to use but more expensive and fragile.

Advantages of a Brix Refractometer over colostrometer;

  • Much more accurate
  • Not affected by temperature
  • Optical ones more robust and compact

Brix Refractometers are available over the internet but you need to know which one to get and freight can increase the costs a lot. Brix Refractometers are available from Warrnambool Veterinary. We have purchased the correct ones in bulk and they are now available.

Using an Optical Refractometer

brixIt takes a few attempts, but once you have worked it out, they are easy to use. You put 2 drops of the colostrums onto the glass plate, close the cover, point at the light then look through the eyepiece. You will see a blue line and you look at what number the line is on. The higher the number, the better the colostrums. High readings (>25% Brix) can be a bit blurry to read i.e. the blue-white line is a bit fuzzy. This doesn’t really matter because the low readings are very clear and as long as it’s above 22% Brix, then that is all we are interested in.