Troubleshooting Colostrum Cleanliness

You sent in samples of your colostrum or you set up your own colostrum and milk testing lab at your farm. You are looking at the results and find out they are higher than Snoop Dog, now what?

Step one is to zero in on where the issue is coming from, we talked briefly about how to do this here, but we are going to take a closer look at how to go about doing this in this article. We are also going to discuss some mitigation strategies in depth to help get your counts down, giving your calves a better chance to thrive!

Follow these steps to help you corner where the source of your problem is. Keep in mind, it might not be one single thing that’s going wrong at a certain point in the process, it could be a lot of little things adding up to one big thing.

  1. Take the sample from the point that the calf would be receiving the colostrum, either through the tuber or bottle.
  2. If it is high, start moving backwards in the process toward the cow.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Here are the places that need to be checked:
    1. The last point before the calf is ingesting the colostrum.
    2. Before it is put into the feeding container (tuber or bottle).
    3. After it is warmed, how ever that is done on your farm.
    4. Before it is warmed.
    5. Before it is put in the fridge or freezer, after pasteurization if you do this on your farm.
    6. Just before you put it in the pasteurizer.
    7. Right after collection from the cow.
  5. The places we see the greatest issue are dirty equipment, colostrum sitting out too long before processing, and the warming process taking longer than 20 minutes (basically incubating the bacteria).
  6. 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.

Pro Tip: Colostrum sitting out a room temperature and taking too long to heat to feeding temperature is a HUGE problem. You can easily go from having clean, high quality colostrum, to having more bacteria than you know what to do with simply by leaving the colostrum sit at room temperature or in a warm bucket of water for an hour. If colostrum is going to be sitting at at any point before processing OR if it is going to take longer than 20 minutes for the re-warming process add 1oz (30 mL) of DK-ll per gallon of colostrum ASAP to keep bacteria levels low and to prevent quality degrading.

We have decrease our warming time by 25% by only refrigerating colostrum that has been treated with DK-ll. We can safely leave colostrum in the fridge for 2-3 days with DK-ll and with our ColoQuick Thaw Machine, we can warm 2 gallons of colostrum in less than 10 minutes!

So you track your colostrum issue back to some dirty equipment, what can you do?

Clean more, of course, but how can you do this and make it fast and easy for employees to be sure it gets done every time.

Here is our colostrum equipment cleaning protocol that gets us 0 on the ATP meter every time:

  1. Rinse all equipment with warm water (120F).
  2. Use detergent (we use dawn dish soap, as needed, it’s an awesome degreaser!) to scrub down all surfaces of the equipment, inside and out. Most times we skip this step unless the colostrum is VERY high fat.
  3. Rinse with hot water.
  4. Spray with DK-ll.
  5. Hang to dry.

To make this process even easier, set up a sink that keeps 120F rinse water, and DK-ll in it. Then you don’t have to waste water, and it’s always ready to clean your equipment. You can also use this same process to keep your hands nice and clean for the calves!

P.S. Are your hands clean?

Running diagnostics is helpful for many things, but only if you know what to test and where to test.

If you are wondering if your colostrum program could use and upgrade, sent us a message and we would love to help you troubleshoot your colostrum program and figure out what needs to be done to have happy, health calves starting from day one.

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