fetal calf serum

Heidi Engelhardt engelhah at wright.aps.uoguelph.ca
Fri Mar 10 14:17:34 EST 2000

There isn't much I can add to Warren from Alberta's very 
thorough answer ...

- major market for "retired" dairy cows = MacDonalds, etc

- I would agree that most if not all FCS comes from fetuses discovered at 

- in addition to intentionally shipping pregnant animals (for economic 
  reasons), it is pretty common (at least in my experience) for this to 
  occur unintentionally:
- feedlot (beef) heifer gets in with bull without farmer's knowledge  
  - maybe an escape incident, maybe with very young bull that 
    wasn't thought to be capable yet
  - since breeding wasn't the object, animals wouldn't be closely 
    observed for estrus behaviour (lack of -> pregnant)
- I have received cows culled (shipped for slaughter) due to 
  "infertility" (failure to show estrus behaviour) and found that they 
  were pregnant (bad record keeping on part of farmer but easy to 
  imagine when dealing with hundreds of animals)
  (a cow can be seven months pregnant without showing externally)

- I second the idea that lack of immunoglobulins in fetus (versus 
  newborn) serum a plus (no placental transfer of Igs in livestock

- over and above the fluctuations in beef prices, I would think that 
  processing makes up a huge chunk of the cost of serum.  The more
  things it is tested for, the higher the cost.

Dept Animal and Poultry Science
University of Guelph

Warren Gallin (wgallin at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca) wrote:
>     Beef primarily comes from both female cows (usually heifers, unbred
> young females) and male cows that were castrated at an early age to
> prevent the meat from getting gamey (steers).  These cattle come from
> specific breeds that are not useful for milk production, but rather are
> bred for fast gain of muscle mass and appropriate ratios of fat and
> muscle.  Old bulls and milk cows past their primer produce a decidedly
> inferior grade of meat; they are slaughtered for thinks like sausages,
> canned meat and other processed products.

>     Depending on the market for beef, farmers will send pregnant cattle
> to slaughter, either if prices are really high and expected to drop, in
> which case they want to take their profit and not incur the risk of
> having calves that will cost more to feed than they will bring in a
> future market, or if prices are low and expected to stay that way, in
> which case they want to get rid of cattle that will not bring a profit.

>     As far as I know, all fetal calf serum is collected from fetal
> calves at slaughter.  The main reason for price fluctuation in fetal
> calf serum is that the availability fluctuates wildly with the market
> price of beef.

>     There, how's that for practical biology?

> Wolfgang Schechinger wrote:

> > Hello Richard!
> >
> > I was told this story by a sales rep from a company I don't rember
> > exactly wich one after having asked him where the stuff came from.
> > Here in Germany, this probably wouldn't be possible (if it is legal
> > at all) since cows are homed in a stable and the farmer knows
> > about their sex life (because he has paid for an artificial
> > insemination). And he wouldn't dare to sacrifice a pregnant cow since
> > he is interested in the calf. When cows are kept in mixed herds (are
> > they?) this could be different.
> > Anyway, I thought that not only bulls and oxes are the source of
> > cattle meat (what's the fate of all these exhausted milk cows? Do
> > they all go into dog and cat food cans?)
> >
> > Could somebody more familiar with this topic please contribute
> > her/his knowledge in order enlighten me and us? I'm really interested
> > in this topic. Is it possible that calves are especially
> > produced for generating FCS?
> >
> > Wolfgang
> >

> [clipped]

> > > In article <200003091701.SAA05948 at intwww.zit.med.uni-tuebingen.de>,
> > > Wolfgang.Schechinger at med.uni-tuebingen.de ("Wolfgang Schechinger")
> > > wrote:
> > >
> > > > Another aspect is that it's probably easier to get serum from
> > > > fetal calves than from newborn ones since fetal calves are to my
> > > > knowledge a "by product" when pregnant cows are slaughtered in
> > > > order to get access to their meat.
> > >
> > > really?   I didn't think cows - pregnant or otherwise - were
> > > slaughtered for meat (except post milk-productive ones).
> > >
> > > Bulls, yes, cows, no.  I would guess that the high price of FCS
> > > reflects that it's a primary product rather than a sideline.  But
> > > what do I know, eh?  :)
> > >
> >

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