The William H. Miner

Agricultural Research Institute

Miner Institute
Farm Report


As we head into the New Year it might be time to dust off those old colostrum protocols and set your newborn calves up for a great start. Implementing protocols to ensure colostrum quality is not degraded during collection and storage will help deliver the high quality colostrum we strive to feed our calves. Dr. Sandra Godden at the University of Minnesota outlined several control points in the management of colostrum that are described below.

Make sure that you start by keeping the best quality colostrum.

Colostrum can be tested for quality using a colostrometer. Poorer quality colostrum can be fed for third or fourth feedings or to the older calves.

Colostrum may be of poorer quality if:
1. The dam had a dry period less than 45 days.
2. The dam was provided poor nutrition during the dry period.
3. The dam was heat stressed during the dry period.
4. The dam was leaking milk prior to calving.
5. The dam was a first calf heifer.
6. The colostrum is thin and watery.
7. The dam produced more than 18 lbs in her first milking.
8. The time of colostrum harvest is delayed. Quality drops significantly after 1 to 2 days.

Collect and handle colostrum in a clean manner:
1. Wash the udder and teats well before collecting colostrum.
2. Buckets, pails, milking equipment and feeding utensils should all be cleaned with detergent and hot water and then sanitized.
3. Filter colostrum to remove debris.
4. Store colostrum in closed, sanitized containers.
Colostrum storage recommendations:
The goal of colostrum storage is to minimize the time colostrum is not cooled. Colostrum should be cooled, like milk, to 40˚F and kept that way until feeding. Bacteria can double approximately every 20 minutes.
1. In a study that compared storage methods of colostrum, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that warm ambient temperatures resulted in the most rapid bacterial growth. Intermediate growth was found in colostrum stored in the refrigerator or treated with potassium sorbate. The most effective treatment was colostrum treated with potassium sorbate and stored in the refrigerator.

Colostrum can be stored at:
1. Room Temperature for 1-2 days
2. Refrigeration: up to 7 days
3. Freezing: up to 1 year.
Freeze in 1 or 2 quart bags.
Do not thaw using high heat, it will destroy antibodies.
Use warm water baths or microwave at low or medium heat.

Measuring success of your colostrum management protocols:
1. The goal is to achieve passive transfer of immunity in every calf.
a. Measure IgG status-
- On-farm kit at 2-7 days old $4.50 per calf.
- Serum total protein measured at 24-48 hours with a refractometer.
2. Goal should be >80% of calves tested have serum total protein concentrations above 5.0 g/dl.
3. Monitor rates of illness and death in first week of life.

Overall, make sure all parts of your colostrum management are clean and sanitary. Play “beat the clock” when storing colostrum; the quicker it is cooled the less time bacteria will have to grow. High quality colostrum can only be maintained, make sure your protocols target contamination points so that your calves get the best to get off to a great start.

— Sarah Morrison

* Selected References:
Godden, S. Calf Health Management.
Kirk, J. H. The Impact of Contaminated Colostrum. DA/Contaminated-Colostrum.pdf
Stewart, S., S. Godden, R. Bey, P. Rapnicki, J. Fetrow, R. Farnsworth, M. Scanlon, Y. Arnold, L.
Clow, K. Mueller, and C. Ferrouillet. 2005. Preventing Bacterial Contamination and
Proliferation During the Harvest, Storage, and Feeding of Fresh Bovine Colostrum. J. Dairy Sci. 88:2571-2578.

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The Miner Institute Farm Report is written primarily for farmers and other agricultural professionals in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. Most articles deal with dairy and crops topics, but also included are articles dealing with environmental issues and global agriculture as well as editorial commentary.

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