The use of colostrum for the treatment of illness and for the maintenance of well-being dates back thousands of years. The Ayurvedic physicians and the Rishis of India have been using colostrum for medicinal purposes since cows have become domesticated.
Around the turn of century it was noted that antibody levels in the first milk after birth (colostrum) were much higher than in succeeding milks. At that time it was known that these antibodies had certain properties that evoked protection. Spolverini (1920) advocated that cow’s colostrum be utilised as an infant food to protect the infant against shared human and bovine diseases.
Prior to the development of sulpha drugs and antibiotics, colostrum was used for its antibiotic properties. In fact Albert Sabin, the physician credited with developing the first polio vaccine advocated the use of colostrum and in fact originally isolated anti-polio antibodies from bovine colostrum. Campbell and Peterson (1963) were the first to develop a program whereby cows were immunised with a mixture of attenuated pathogens prior to birth of the calf. The colostrum fraction collected from these animals is referred to as immune or hyperimmunised colostrum.
The prophylatic and therapeutic use of immune milks has been shown to be successful in preventing and treating enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infections, rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants, Cryptococcidiosis and diarrhoea in AIDS and other immunodeficient patients, dental caries formation, and other conditions. In all these instances colostrum containing immunoglobulins has been obtained from cows that have been hyperimmunised with specific pathogens.
Kummer (1992) was the first to show that colostrum from non-immunised cows can prevent gastrointestinal disease in infants. McConnell (1998) and her colleagues at Otago University, New Zealand and New Zealand Dairy Group successfully showed that it was possible to produce a colostrum from pasture fed non-hyperimmunised cows which exhibited a greater antibody titre then that of a hyperimmunised equivalent.