Storing, heating and defrosting colostrum are cornerstones of good calf rearing practices.
That is what Emer Kennedy, Teagasc and CalfCare TWG member, highlighted during a Teagasc/AHI CalfCare webinar in recent weeks.
Kennedy concentrated on colostrum quality and improved colostrum management as part of her presentation.
Firstly, she explained to attendees how to store colostrum correctly to ensure calves get the maximum benefit.
Farmers can store colostrum in a fridge or freezer, but the crucial aspect is to do so within three hours of collection.
“After this, the bacteria in the colostrum grows exponentially, and it essentially binds to the antibodies. Therefore, calves cannot absorb the antibodies,” she explained.
“If you put colostrum into a freezer, it will last for up to a year. The key is to place in bottles that you write the day, date, and time that it goes in.”
“Meanwhile, if you put colostrum into a fridge, it will last for up to 48 hours. Check this fridge once or twice daily and discard anything that is over 48 hours old, as there is too much bacteria for the calf.”
Kennedy stressed that freezing colostrum comes with a warning around defrosting.
She explained that farmers must be “very careful” when defrosting colostrum and highlighted that this process should not involve boiling water or microwaves.
“To defrost colostrum, keep water at less than 60 degrees Celsius. You can freeze it in a bottle or a bag. With a bag, there is a greater surface area, so it is going to take less time to defrost than a milk carton.”
“However, do not put bags straight into water as there is a high risk that the corners have frayed and then, colostrum can run into the water.”
“A good idea is to get a steel bucket, which you can fill with warm water. Ensure it is less than 60 degrees Celsius. Put a smaller steel bucket into that and put colostrum into it. After fifteen minutes, you can change the water again to speed up the defrosting process where possible.”
“Antibody absorption increases when colostrum is fed warm. There is no problem feeding cold milk as long as you are consistent in what you do. However, colostrum should always be fed warm.”
“Even if it is coming out of the fridge, it should be warmed using the method that I just outlined to defrost. This will ensure the maximum uptake of antibodies,” she concluded.