Calf nutrition

Store colostrum, don't let bacteria ruin it


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What precautions should robot milkers take when it comes to colostrum?

Dairy farmers with a milking robot can quickly milk the cow, for the first time. “But remember hygiene!” emphasised Erwin. “Make sure the dump bucket is clean or clean the dump bucket carefully if it has not been used for several days.” It may contain a residue of milk from another cow, added Johan. “Studies have shown that only 15% of robot milkers contain fewer than 100,000 germ cells in the separation milk,” explained Johan, who offered an additional tip to keep the colostrum as germ-free as possible: “collect the warm colostrum milk from the bucket as quickly as possible. Bacteria continue to grow in the warm colostrum, and that means that you feed the calf germs together with the antibodies, and obviously that is not the intention.”

How can you best store and heat up the colostrum?

The first colostrum is the very best colostrum. We therefore strongly advise storing the first colostrum and feeding it to the calf on a second and perhaps even a third occasion. But then the colostrum must be carefully stored. “Bacterial growth in warm colostrum is tremendous,” explained Erwin. If colostrum is left standing for two hours, the number of bacteria it contains will have increased by a factor of 32.” Make sure you always have a refrigerator where the colostrum can be stored. Colostrum can best be reheated according to the ‘au bain marie’ method, in a warm ‘water bath’ at at least 60 degrees, in which the colostrum heats up slowly. “Place the bucket of colostrum in a bucket of warm water,” suggested Erwin. “Or use a zinc bucket,” advised Johan. “They heat up more quickly. Plastic is an insulator.” The water must not be too hot, and using a microwave oven to defrost frozen colostrum is absolutely out of the question. “That destroys the antibodies.” Colostrum can easily be stored frozen. It is a good idea to slowly warm frozen colostrum during the night. “So you can quickly feed some colostrum to a new-born calf, without having to milk the cow immediately,” suggested Erwin.

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