There’s no issue with feeding cold milk to calves, but the first feed of colostrum should be warmed up before being fed.
This was the message from Teagasc researcher Dr Emer Kennedy, who was speaking at the Teagasc/Animal Health Ireland online Calf Care event on Tuesday evening.
Dr Kennedy said colostrum must be collected and stored in a hygienic way in order to reduce the bacterial load, which can affect absorption of the antibodies.
She stressed the importance of using clean buckets and containers and either feeding it straight away after collection or storing in a fridge for no more than 48 hours before being fed. Colostrum can also be frozen.
“The key is if you’re storing it in a fridge that you write the date and the time on the bottle such as 18 January, am or pm, and that you’re checking the fridge once or twice a day and throwing out anything that is over 48 hours old because once it goes over 48 hours old there is too much bacteria in it for the calf,” Dr Kennedy said.
She said that freezing colostrum comes with a warning around how it is defrosted before feeding. Boiling water or a microwave are not to be used as these methods risk killing the antibodies.
Dr Kennedy said the water used for defrosting should be no more than 60°C.
Storing frozen colostrum in bags increases the surface area and so speeds up the thawing process. She suggested using a steel bucket placed in a steel bucket with warm water as a good option for thawing and cautioned against placing colostrum bags directly in water as the corners of the bags can fray, allowing the colostrum to leak when thawed.
“Antibody absorption is increased when colostrum is fed warm. There is no problem feeding cold milk as long as you are consistent with what you do but colostrum should always be fed warm, even if it is coming out of the fridge, to ensure the maximum uptake of antibodies,” Dr Kennedy said.