How clean is your colostrum?

Dairy News Australia - - ANIMAL HEALTH - GEMMA CHUCK • Gemma Chuck is a con­sul­tant with Apiam An­i­mal Health.

GOOD QUAL­ITY colostrum helps pro­tect calves against dis­ease in the first 4–6 weeks of life by the pro­vi­sion of an­ti­bod­ies. Re­search has shown that the pro­vi­sion of an ad­e­quate vol­ume of clean, good qual­ity colostrum as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter birth has long-term ben­e­fits. These in­clude re­duced vet­eri­nary costs and in­creased milk pro­duc­tion in the first and sec­ond lac­ta­tions. How­ever, colostrum can be­come heav­ily con­tam­i­nated dur­ing the col­lec­tion, han­dling and stor­age pro­cesses. Con­tam­i­nated colostrum can not only be the source of some ma­jor in­fec­tious dis­eases, such as Sal­mo­nella, Bovine Johne’s Dis­ease and My­coplasma, but the pres­ence of these pathogens in colostrum can also in­hibit the ab­sorp­tion of an­ti­bod­ies by the small in­tes­tine of the calf. There­fore, calves fed con­tam­i­nated colostrum are at a higher risk of dis­ease and fail­ure of pas­sive trans­fer of im­mu­nity. Pos­si­ble sources of con­tam­i­na­tion in­clude the teat skin, milk­ing cup lin­ers, hoses or the bucket it­self. Sub-op­ti­mal clean­ing of col­lec­tion buck­ets and feed­ing equip­ment such as teat or tube feed­ers will ex­ac­er­bate this prob­lem. If al­lowed to ac­cu­mu­late, colostrum residues can be dif­fi­cult to re­move al­low­ing bac­te­rial over­growth in hard-to-reach ar­eas. It is ideal to thor­oughly wash all feed­ing equip­ment af­ter each use, in­clud­ing the sani­ti­sa­tion of tube feed­ers be­tween calves. A sim­ple pro­to­col for the clean­ing of feed­ing equip­ment is out­lined be­low. For ALL feed­ing pails and tube feed­ers at the end of ev­ery feed­ing:


Rinse all equip­ment with luke­warm water, to re­move milk residue, ma­nure and dirt. Do not use hot water at this stage as it causes the milk pro­teins to co­ag­u­late and stick to the sur­faces.


Use water as hot as you can stand with gloves on. To a 20 litre bucket (~19 litres of water), add a squirt of liq­uid soap and 50mls of house­hold bleach (150ppm) — source: S.Leadley, At­tica Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­ates. Scrub all sur­faces to loosen and re­move re­main­ing milk residue. Dump teats in solution. Water should re­main >50oC.


For large milk carts and tanks, rinse with dairy acid wash.


Al­low feed­ers to drain and dry (up­side down on top of a pal­let) be­fore hang­ing on racks. Do not stack in­side each other. For the sani­ti­sa­tion of ALL tubes of tube feed­ers in be­tween calves: 1. The tubes of tube feed­ers should sub­merged in a sani­tis­ing solution of 160mls bleach in 19 litres of water (500ppm)* in be­tween calves — source: S.Leadley, At­tica Vet­eri­nary. 2. Sev­eral tubes should be used at once and ro­tated be­tween calves, to al­low suf­fi­cient con­tact time of dis­in­fec­tant. As bac­te­ria are mi­cro­scopic or­gan­isms it is dif­fi­cult to crudely as­sess the clean­li­ness of colostrum on-farm. How­ever a sim­ple and in­ex­pen­sive test (called a To­tal Plate Count or MUC-Test) al­lows an ob­jec­tive and com­pa­ra­ble assess­ment to be made. Sam­ples of colostrum should be col­lected at all stages of the colostrum han­dling process. These in­clude im­me­di­ately af­ter col­lec­tion from the cow, colostrum from the test bucket and tube feeder and af­ter colostrum has been stored in the fridge or thawed af­ter freez­ing. The sam­ples are pro­cessed in a lab and the bac­te­ria from colostrum are grown over a 24-hour pe­riod in an in­cu­ba­tor. This test will not dif­fer­en­ti­ate the var­i­ous species of bac­te­ria but will give an over­all ob­jec­tive assess­ment of how clean the colostrum is. The test is re­peat­able and com­pa­ra­ble and al­lows mon­i­tor­ing of colostrum han­dling and stor­age dur­ing the calf rear­ing pe­riod. Speak with your lo­cal vet­eri­nar­ian about this ser­vice.

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