Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keeping Pasteurized NonSaleable Milk Clean

A study of 618 dairies in the US looked at post-pasteurization bacteria levels in calf milk. 

Even when the pasteurizer was working well (that is, less than 20,000 cfu/ml coming right out of the pasteurizer) 49% of the samples increased in bacteria count by the time the last calf was fed. That is almost one-half of the samples went UP in bacteria count.

For the moment let's assume that you have this problem - a high post-pasteurization contamination level. And, let's assume you are at least trying to wash equipment to reduce this problem (right temperature water, proper chemicals, correct wash time).

Some of the favorite places where bacteria hide?

1. If you have any sort of tank or closed container, check out the inside surface of the top. I frequently find that mechanical wash systems do not clean these surfaces consistently and well. Often the only solution is manual scrubbing with a brush.

2. Pumps - if the feeding system has a pump, this piece of equipment is not always part of the mechanical wash cycle - the pump has to have circulating rinse, wash and acid rinse water in order to clean well, not just an end-of-wash pump out.

3. Joints in  plumbing - many of our milk-feeding systems are constructed with plumbing fittings from the hardware store, not the milking equipment dealer. Any joint that cannot be broken down (the kind that has a release clip with a gasket and comes completely apart) is a perfect site for milk residues to build up, collect bacteria, grow bacteria and release bacteria into the milk supply. The only solution I know of is periodic tear downs and scrubbing.

4. If you feed with bottles the favorite places are the inside of nipples and the inside shoulder of the nursing bottle. 

Just for review, the recommended protocol on washing milk containers is found HERE (Spanish version is HERE).

Just to review, the ideal samples for identifying these contamination issues are:
1. Raw milk (before pasteurizing)
2. Direct from pasteurizer
3. First calf fed - "as-fed" sample
4. Last calf fed - "as-fed" sample

An "as-fed" sample is one taken as the milk flows into the feeding bucket. If you feed with bottles the "as-fed" sample is taken from the end of the nipple just before the bottle is given to a calf. 

Reference: Yoho, W.S.B, and Others, "Variation on nutrient content and bacteria count of pasteurized waste milk fed to dairy calves." American Journal of Dairy Science Supplement T132, 2017.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Calf Jacket Protocol: A Model Protocol

When to start using calf jackets? When to take off jackets?

I noticed a post on Twitter by Synergy Farm Health Calf Club on November 27th 2017. They gave credit to Jamie Robertson of LMS (in UK). Click HERE to go to the Calf Jacket Protocol.

With my clients I have found significant variation among the calf care persons on a dairy - the herd manager and calf care persons really have not agreed on when to put them on and when to take them off. 

The idea of using a min/max thermometer sounds good to me. With my own calves I kept a min./max thermometer in an old broken hutch to track the maximum daily variation so I know how easy it is to use one. A Google search showed min/max thermometers in a range available between $15-$25.

While you may not agree with all the details in this protocol I encourage you to consider using this model to make up a calf jacket protocol that fits your dairy.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bottle Feeding Colostrum

The December issue the calf management newsletter is now posted online at in the Resources section or just click HERE.

A summary of the main points in the letter:

  • Bottle feeding promotes rapid and efficient absorption of antibodies from colostrum.
  • Start with a clean nipple and bottle using clean, wholesome colostrum.
  • Plan ahead when cold weather bottle feeding colostrum.
  • Pick out the right nipples.     
  • Monitor swallowing, avoid choking.
If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new issue is posted online send an e-mail to me at

Remember that many back issues are posted at in the Resource section, click on Calf Management Newsletter.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Feeding Tubes on Automatic Feeders - A Weak Link in Sanitation

Recently reported research (38 dairies in upper Midwestern US) describes the bacterial challenge presented at the end of the feeding tubes.

They found these median values at the end of the feeder tubes:
1. coliform count - 10,430 cfu/ml (range from to 28,517,000)
2. standard plate count - 2,566.867 cfu/ml (range from 6,668 to 82,825,000 cfu/ml)

For my clients that are feeding with bottles or buckets I recommend no more than 1,000 cfu/ml coliforms and 10,000 cfu/ml standard plate count.

Compared to the standards that I insist on for my manual feeding clients, these automatic feeder "end of feeder tube" bacteria counts sound like a disaster in the making for calf gut health. 

I checked to see what sanitation measures were being used on these farms. 

Feeding tubes (or hoses) were manually cleaned on the average of 1.9 times per week. The range was from 0 to 14. Yes, at least one farm was cleaning these hoses twice a day. That is in sharp contrast to 36 % of the farms not cleaning them at all. 

Changing old hoses for new ones? Hoses were reported to be changed on average of 19 times a year (somewhere between every 2 or 3 weeks). The range for changing hoses (per year) was from 1 to 104. I have examined these hoses in a few auto feeder barns that were discolored from bacterial growth displaying various red, blue, yellow and green patterns. Ugh!

What do you want to bet that the farms at the bottom of the bacterial contamination rate changed hoses frequently? My money is on the farm that changed hoses twice a week (104/yr).

How expensive are these hoses? Our vet clinic retails this hose at about $80/100 feet. That's right, $.80/foot. One of my clients with 2 feeders and 4 feeding stations uses about 50 feet for each hose change. That comes to $40 for new hoses. They change hoses weekly. Compare that to the cost of electrolyte and antibiotic supplies plus treatment labor when 60 to 80% of the calves require treatment. 

Reference:Jorgensen, M.W. and Others, "Housing and management characteristics of calf automated feeding systems in the Upper Midwest of the United States." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9881-9891 December 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Predictors of Extended Time to Bucket Train

From a sample of 1,235 calves from one dairy researchers recorded the number of feedings required to successfully train a calf to drink from a bucket. The colostrum was administered with a tube feeder. 

Starting the second day of life the calves were fed 2.1 quarts of whole unpasteurized milk twice a day. After 3 days of age nearly 60% of the calves consumed their morning milk meal without assistance

I was interested in how rapidly the remaining 40% of calves picked up drinking from a bucket. By day 5 the proportion drinking without assistance was 92%. From my on-farm work perspective I remember bucket training taking a fair amount of work at every feeding even though we averaged only 2 to 3 newborn heifers daily.

Bull calves and twins regularly required additional days to drink from a bucket without help from a care giver.

One tip that made this work go easier for me in cold weather - remember that it is easier to teach a calf to drink when the milk is warm; that is, between 100-105F. During cold weather (in Western New York that means at least from October through April) I filled between 8 and 12 nursing bottles with milk and loaded them in 5-gallon pails partially filled with  120F water. We would drop off these pails at the newborn hutches. Either a co-worker or myself started feeding the other calves that were already drinking from buckets. The other person would dump one bottle into a bucket and work with the youngest calf (remember the other bottles are sitting in warm water). Repeat process for the second calf, and so on.

Once we adopted this warm water bath procedure we cut out training time nearly in half - no more trying to teach drinking with cold milk!

Reference: Mandel, C. and Others, "Predictors of time to dairy calf bucket training." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9769-9774. December 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cold Weather & Colostrum

Dr. Bob Corbett describes the issue of adequate energy intake by closeup dry cows and its impact on the volume of colostrum produced.

Click HERE for the full article.

On the point of adequate dry matter intake he has this to say:
"The biggest reason for a reduction in intake is overcrowding on the close-up pen. Use only 80% of the available bunk space. Separating first-calf heifers from older cows will also improve intake of the younger animals."

He reminds us:
"Obviously, antibody content of the colostrum and cleanliness is necessary to maximize antibody levels in the blood of the calf, along with administration of 10% of the birth weight in colostrum as soon as possible after birth."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

STOP! Don't Cut that Nipple
[Bottle Feeding Tip]

This short bottle feeding tip gives advice about NOT cutting nipples to speed up milk flow. Feeders are encouraged to check and, as needed, open the air vent hole to allow easy milk flow.

It is available HERE in English and HERE in Spanish.

If this helps with the problem of cutting nipples please drop me a note at