The Brix refractometer was designed for wine and maple syrup producers to be able to determine the concentration of sugar or alcohol present in their products. For our use, this tool gives us the ability to determine the amount of ANTIBODIES present in the colostrum. In order that the calf be able to build a good immune system, we need to provide her with 4 liters of good quality colostrum within the first 6 hours of life. But how do we know if those four liters is actually enough? In order to be certain, we need to determine that the quality (quantity of antibodies) of colostrum is at a certain level.

The antibodies that we are looking for are actually small particles in the immune system that are able to bind with viruses and bacterias and destroy them. If we find that the mother’s colostrum doesn’t have enough of these antibodies, we can add colostrum powder (Calf’s choice Total Hi-cal, available in clinic) and then take another reading with our Brix to be sure that the colostrum is now of good enough quality to feed the newborn calf.


How to use the Brix Refractometer: 

1 – First step: Put one drop of fresh colostrum on the slide in the refractometer. The colostrum must be well mixed before taking your sample, the temperature is not important.

2- Step two: Bring the plastic cover of the refractometer over the drop of colostrum and look through the lense towards a light.


3- Step three: Read the result.

Here is a picture of what you will see when you look through the window of your Brix, as Steve is doing here in his high fashion 2014 spring/summer outfit! Only the left side will be important. Our goal is to reach a reading of 22%. I repeat: 22%. Keep this number in mind because it’s the only one you will have to remember. If your colostrum is above 22%, you will not need to supplement it. If your colostrum is right on 22%, we recommend to supplement with half of bag of Calf’s choice Total Hi cal (quantity may vary if you are using another product with different concentration). If your colostrum is below 22%, we recommend supplementing with a full bag of Calf’s choice Total Hi cal. We also recommend taking another reading with your Brix after you mix it in with the colostrum powder to be certain that it’s over 22%.

4- Step four: Feed the calf and then clean your Brix with a soft cloth to avoid scratches on the window.

So we now have an easy-to-use, economically priced tool to ensure that you are giving your calves the best quality colostrum for a healthy start in life. For your convenience, we will stock a few refractometers at the clinic – cost will be approximately $100.00.

CALF’S CHOICE TOTAL HICAL is the colostrum that we stock in the clinic. There are other products available on the market, but this one is, in our opinion, one of the most complete and will provide good immunity to the calf that receives colostrum that doesn’t have enough antibodies, or no colostrum at all.