Monday, January 16, 2017

Milk Yield per Milking for
Milkings 1-8 Post Calving

How much colostrum and transition milk should we expect from our cows? Another study measured these yields from 37 cows. The data are below as average yield.

   Milking No.        Kg          Lbs.   
1 7.5 16.5
2 4.9 10.7
3 7.2 15.9
4 11.4 25.1
5 10.7 23.5
6 13.1 28.9
7 11.1 24.3
8 14.2 31.2

The study colostrum feeding program for calves fed 10% of birth weight (40kg) required 6L or Kg per calf. Thus, on the average these yields (7.5 quarts) were enough to meet program needs where they fed calves colostrum from their own dams.

If the dairy chooses to feed 2nd, 3rd and 4th milkings (transition milk) to calves, on the average these dams produced nearly 52 pounds (23.5kg) over 36 hours. When I collected transition milk for my calves I found that I had enough volume to feed it exclusively to all my heifer calves for the first seven to ten days (I fed 4 quarts daily for most of the year and 5 quarts during January, February and March).

Reference: Dunn, A, and Others, "Effect of concentrate supplementation during the dry period on colostrum quality and effect of colostrum feeding regimen on passive transfer of immunity, calf health and performance." Journal of Dairy Science 100:357-370. Research was done in Ireland during the months of February, March and April, 2014.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Miner Institute Farm Report

If you are not already receiving this monthly Farm Report from the Miner Institute now is the time to sign up for it. Just send an e-mail to Rachael Dutil at this address so she can add your name to the mailing list to receive a note each time a new issue is published. 

To see the current issue do this:

The URL is or click HERE to go there. 

Click on the drop-down item "Dairy" and then click on "Farm Report"

The January issue topics are:
  • Rethinking Fiber Dynamics and Grass Forages
  • Calving: To Assist or Not to Assist
  • A New Year's Resolution
  • Corn Hybrid Silage Trial Results
  • Use of Bulk Tank Milk Fatty Acid Data to Make Nutrition & Management Decisions
  • Blurring the Lines: Dairy Beef
  • Resolutions with Real Impact
  • Edge-of-Field Phosphorus Losses
  • What's Happening on the Farm
  • Soybeans in the North Country: An Update

Friday, January 6, 2017

Yet More Evidence that Feeding More High Quality Colostrum Has Benefits for Calves

In an Irish study 37 calves averaging 40.4kg (90.5 lbs.) were allocated to two colostrum feeding treatments:
  • 5% of body weight of colostrum (55g/L IgG) fed (2L or 2.1 qts) within 1 hour after birth followed by the same volume of second milking (est. 30g/L IgG) at 12 hours.
  • 10% of body weight of colostrum (55g/L IgG)  fed (4L or 4.2 qts) within 1 hour after birth followd by 2L (2.1qts) of similar quality colostrum at 12 hours.
These feedings translate into:
  • 5%-calves = 110g IgG first feeding, 60g IgG second feeding = total 170g
  • 10%-calves = 220g IgG first feedng, 110g IgG second feeding = total 330g
What happens in the calves? When we compare circulating antibodies in their blood, the 10% calves had 48% more antibodies than 5% calves at 24 hours and 50% more antibodies than 5% calves at 48 hours. 

What happens later? When we compare diarrhea treatment rates, the 10% calves had a 43% treatment rate compared to 53% for 5% calves. Note that these were group housed with an automatic milk replacer feeder and the program had a low threshold for starting treatment.

For comparison, one of my Calf Wellness dairy clients feeds 4qts within one hour of birth, another 2 quarts at 6 hours and another 2 quarts at 12 hours. [All first-milking colostrum tested at greater than 50g/L.] Using blood serum total proteins as an estimate of immunity their results look like this:

Blood Serum Total Protein Values
Visit Date                                                       Dec16  Nov16 Oct16  Sep16  Jun16 Mar16
Number of reported values                             85        45        45        168      78        35       
Number of values at 4.5 or below                   0          0          0          2          0          0         
Number of values at 5.0 or below                   0          1          1          12        6          2         
Percent values 5.5 and greater                        91%     91%     98%     85%    92%     92%    
Average                                                           6.3       6.4       6.1       6.4       6.2       6.2      
Median                                                            6.2       6.4       6.0       6.4       6.1       6.1  

Bottom line is that feeding more IgG's results in more antibodies in the blood, period.  


Thursday, January 5, 2017

What Level of Bacterial Contamination is "Normal" for Colostrum?

The January issue focus is on bacterial contamination in colostrum. 

The key points are:
  • ·         Why do we care about bacterial contamination of colostrum?
  • ·         So, what are realistic, cost-effective goals for bacterial contamination levels?
  • ·         Are dairies feeding low bacteria count colostrum (less than 100,000cfu/ml)?
  • ·         Should we accept failure as “Normal?”
  • ·         How to make “Success” the new normal on a dairy.
       To access this issue click HERE or paste this URL in your browser


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More on Bacteria Counts in Colostrum

In my December 29, 2016 post I suggested that bacteria counts over 200,000 or 300,000 should not be considered "normal" for a commercial dairy.

I went back in my files to check on a 400 cow dairy in western New York State. We started working together in the fall of 2003 to improve colostrum management.

These are the culture results from the following February and June, 2004.
Table 1. Lab results reported on 6/17/04
Sample ID
Coliform bacteria (cfu/ml)
Total bacteria (cfu/ml)
Colostrum #1113 Kevin 3/3/04
15,600 (Strep. Species)
Colostrum #1317 4/17/04
Colostrum #1285 M 4/18/04
7,800 (Staph. Species)
Colostrum #1306 M 4/29.04
TNTC (Strep. Species)
Colostrum #1135 R 5/4/04
Colostrum #10 B 5/23/04

Table 2. Samples reported February, 2004
Sample ID
Coliform bacteria (cfu/ml)
Total bacteria (cfu/ml)
Colostrum #494 M 1//26
TNTC (Staph)
Colostrum #1033 T 1/30
Colostrum #1126 T 2/5
19,800 (some yeast)
Colostrum #701 frozen
Waste Milk
Colostrum #1167 M 2/5

The two cows with high bacteria counts were chronic mastitis animals that appear not to have cleared these infections during the dry periods. 

When they submitted samples  three years later in May 2007 the culture results look like this:
Sample ID
Coliform bacteria (cfu/ml)
Total bacteria (cfu/ml)
Colostrum #661 M
Colostrum #1293 B 4/14
400 (300 Staph species, 100 Strep species)
Colostrum #1546 M 4/11
1,000 (800 Staph species, 200 Strep species)
Colostrum #1555 D 2/15
Colostrum #1694 B 4/26
400 (200 Staph species, 200 Strep species)
Colostrum #1729 D 4/19
10,500 (10,200 Staph species, 300 Strep species)

When they submitted samples in March 2012 the culture results look like this:
Sample ID
Coliform bacteria (cfu/ml)
Total bacteria (cfu/ml)
#2269 N 1-26
900 (700 Staph species, 200 Strep species,)
#2112 M 1/25
900 (600 Staph species, 200 Strep species, 100 gram pos bacillus)
#2433 M 2/3
600 (200 Staph species, 100 Strep species, 300 gram pos bacillus)
#2217 B 1/28
3,000 (2,000 Staph species, 500 Strep species, 500 gram pos bacillus)
#1881 M 2/14
4,500 (3,000 Staph species, 1,000 Strep species, 500 gram pos bacillus)
#2452 N 2/22
500 (200 Staph species, 300 Strep species)
#2109 N 2/21
1,300 (800 Staph species, 400 Strep species, 100 coliforms)
#2449 B 2/5
1,200 (700 Staph species, 300 Strep species, 200 gram pos bacillus)
Can they sustain this level of colostrum management? Here are the Spring, 2016 culture results.

Sample ID
Coliform bacteria (cfu/ml)
Total bacteria (cfu/ml)
32,500 (25,000 Strep species, 7,500 coliforms)
2,300 (1,500 Strep species, 500 Staph species, 300 gram pos bacillus)
1,600 (800 Staph species,. 300 Strep species, 500 gram pos bacillus)
300 Strep species
300 (200 Strep species, 100 gram pos bacillus)
1,300 (1,000 Staph species, 200 Strep species, 100 gram pos bacillus)
4,400 (1,300 Staph species, 2,500 Strep species, 600 gram pos bacillus)
I conclude that low bacteria counts can be achieved - over 12  years on this dairy. Here and there a blip but overall results are good. 

What does it take to get here? Good protocols and strong "buy-in" by both the dairy owner and the herdsman. 

Do you have a good example to share? Let me know at

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Irish Colostrum Bacteria Counts

An Irish study included colostrum collected from 49 cows that calved between February 9 and March 5, 2014. All the cows were milked as soon as practical after calving. The colostrum was very high quality averaging 94g/L (the lowest quality was 62g/L). They fed colostrum at the rate of 8.5% of birth weight. [40kg or 88lb. calf received 3.4kg or 7.5lbs colostrum] [7.5lbs = 3.5quarts]

There were five colostrum handling and feeding treatments:
1. [PST] Pasteurized and fed immediately after collection
2. [FR] Raw, fed immediately after collection
3. [ST4] Stored for 2 days at 4C
4. [ST13] Stored for 2 days at 13C
5. [ST22] Stored for 2 days at 22C

The total plate count sampled before feeding the calf by storage treatment was:

1. PST   = 35, 148
2. FR     = 372,907
3. ST4   = 1,198,947
4. ST13 = 7,509,309
5 ST22 = 54,865,583

Pretty much as you would have predicted?

Now here is the interesting conclusion of the authors:

"Although all precautions were taken in the present study to minimize bacterial contamination during colostrum collection, total bacteria count of the fresh colostrum in the present study was almost 400,000cfu/ml, exceeding the current suggested maximum bacteria level of 100,000cfu/ml. Because cleaned equipment was used for collection, the present recommendations may be unrealistic in a commercial setting." (p532) [emphasis added]

I do not agree with this conclusion. I have commercial dairy clients both large and small herds that consistently provide "as-fed" colostrum under 50,000cfu/ml total plate count. 

Furthermore, there are regular variations between farms on these colostrum bacteria counts with some farms producing consistently clean colostrum and others that do not have adequate collection and handling procedures to keep their total plate counts under 100,000cfu/ml. Low bacteria counts are both possible and practical - the key is good management.

In our veterinary clinic in-house lab I tell the technicians not to bother quantifying samples over 100,000cfu/ml because the colostrum is so badly contaminated we know the dairy needs to make significant management changes to clean up their colostrum.

I am not willing to throw in the towel and accept badly contaminated colostrum as "normal." 

If you have an opinion about this feel free to contact me at

Reference: C. Cummins and Others, "The effect of colostrum storage conditions on dairy heifer calf serum immunoglobulin G concentration and preweaning health and growth rate." Journal of Dairy Science, 100:525-535 (January 2017).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cryptosporidia Control - a Weak Link

It is important to be comprehensive when trying to reduce exposure to parasites - especially cryptosporidia.

Remember that now winter is here that our calf coats need to be clean. 

I was on farm last Thursday and was pleased to see that every young calf had a CLEAN calf coat.

It is so easy to get busy and let the supply of clean coats get low. Then a soiled coat goes on the next newborn calf. Ooops - that is our weak link. 

The farm I was on has a commercial clothes dryer that heats above 140F. That will take care of any Cryptosporidia oocysts that make it past the washing process.