On month two of our 4 Q’s of colostrum management, we covered quality, but only part of what it means to have quality colostrum. The first part of quality includes having adequate levels of IgG’s to help ensure successful passive transfer in newborn calves. There is another part of that, which we deem just as important as having high quality colostrum, because without it you automatically start degrading the quality.
What is the second half to this quality equation? Colostrum AND their environment need to be clean, sQueaky clean!
First, what is clean colostrum? Clean colostrum is colostrum that has less than 100,000 CFU of TPC (total plate counts), and less than 10,000 CFU of E. Coli/Coliform. This is something that is very easy to get samples of and very easy to check, most milk shipping companies will even do it for you, you can just send it on the truck! There are a few things to remember though:
- Take the sample from the point that the calf would be receiving the colostrum, either through the tuber or bottle.
- If it is high, start moving backwards in the process toward the cow.
- Does your E. Coli drop significantly if you take the sample before you put it in the tuber or bottle? Your feeding equipment might need to be cleaned better or replaced.
- Take multiple samples from each location, and check them with different employees. Someone may be handling the colostrum well, and someone might need more training.
- Note: Colostrum straight out of the cow is clean, she makes sure of it! As humans, we contaminate it along the way, so we need to make sure we are doing the best we can to keep the contamination to a minimum!
Okay, so you took some samples and your colostrum counts are HIGH. Now what?
The good news, you have many options!
- Pasteurization to kill harmful bacteria. We LOVE our ColoQuick system!
- The addition of DK-ll to your colostrum to help reduce bacteria and preserve.
Each process has pro’s and con’s which we will discuss in much further detail in the next few posts, but there is more to sQueaky clean than just the colostrum.
The calving pen, holding area, and calf transportation are all just as important in terms of cleanliness as the colostrum itself.
Every single harmful bacteria that a calf ingests before she gets her colostrum is already in competition for gut space in the newborn. She only has so much time for absorption and space in there, so you want as little bacteria as possible to get dibs on that space before the colostrum even has a chance! Are your calves blood serums repeatedly failing, but the IgG’s in the colostrum test high? Bad bacteria in the colostrum or the environment might be to blame for the shortcomings.
Here are a few things to dig into if that is the case:
- Get a detailed sanitation audit done. Everything from the collection equipment, to the feeding equipment, to the door knobs and gates that the employees use to go from the milk house to the calving pen. If you really want to get nitty gritty, check the calf feeders hands.
- Take samples of your calving pen bedding, and calf holding area bedding. There are many things to be found in bedding, it might be harboring harmful bacteria without you even knowing.
- Get newborn calves away from the cow/cows ASAP. Cows that are stressed (aka giving birth) are highly likely to shed pathogens into the environment and onto those newborns. Those newborn calves do not have the capacity to protect themselves from those pathogens like other cows do. Removing the calf from the cow quickly and moving the calf to a different area will be highly beneficial for the calf.
- Make sure your clothes are clean when handling newborn calves. If you are working cows and a calf is born, but you are covered from head to toe in cow manure, consider having a pair of bibs to slip on so that you aren’t contaminating that calf with manure from older animals.
- Make cleaning and sanitation as easy as possible so that the employees will be more inclined to follow cleaning protocols and procedures. Adding DK-ll to our cleaning protocols made them easy to follow and in return they got done right every time.
Lastly, here’s 10 tips we recommend to take your maternity pen to the next level:
- Unless you are feeding colostrum directly from dam to calf (via bucket milker, not letting the calf nurse), you should be adding some kind of insurance for yourself into your colostrum processing protocol. We suggest pasteurization AND DK-ll. This will kill the bacteria and help prevent it from growing back.
- Do a sanitation audit monthly at minimum to keep track of pain points on your farm.
- Take bedding samples monthly to create a baseline. Take samples in different months, temperatures, and humidity levels to keep track of when counts get high and when you need to be doing more frequent bedding changes.
- In a perfect world, you would change the bedding after every calving, but optimally, after 3-5 calvings, or when your knee drop test fails.
- If changing the bedding as often as you would like isn’t always an option, consider spraying your calving pen down with DK-ll after each calving to help reduce the bacteria load.
- Send in colostrum samples monthly to ensure that your bacteria levels are being properly managed. Many times you can catch an issue before it blows up by staying on top of sampling.
- Line your walls with material that is easy to clean and sanitize. Extrutech is a great option if you are looking for a serious upgrade, but there are many pvc sheets that will do the trick on a small budget.
- Pressure wash your entire maternity area quarterly. This will help get those hard to clean areas, and give everything a fresh new glow. Ceilings, floors, gates, walls, the whole nine!
- Create protocols and stick to them. Doing extra cleaning will never be convenient and there’s never enough time in the day, but there are things that are too essential to put off. If you struggle to find enough time in your day (like I do!) consider hiring someone to help you so you can delegate those essential jobs.
- No where in protocol sheets should there be the words “as needed”. This implies that 1. there is a choice, and 2. that its up for digression and discussion, and with maternity and newborn calf matters, that can’t be the case if you want to be successful.
As always, if you are looking for additional guidance, or to get more information on any of the tools mentioned in this post, don’t hesitate to comment, email, or message us on Facebook, we would be more than happy to brainstorm with you!