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Washington State University Dairy News

December 2014 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Greetings and Welcome to Our New Look for the WSU Dairy Newsletter

With this issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter, we debut a new system for managing our Newsletter. Please provide any feedback in regard to the format and usefulness of this publication to Joe Harrison at

Dr. Amber Adams-Progar
Dr. Amber Adams-Progar
In addition to the change in the Newsletter format, we would also like to welcome Dr. Amber Adams-Progar, Dairy Extension-Research faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU Pullman. Amber joined the faculty in June of 2014 and will focus on Animal Well-Being and Calf Management, as well as being a resource for general dairy extension needs in the state. She can be contacted at or 509-335-0673.

Dr Amber Adams-Progar’s Top Ten Tips: Calf Management

After spending the last year and a half working with about 40 dairy farms, and putting over 60,000 miles on the rental car, I have seen a wide variety of calf management strategies. Some ideas were instant successes, some were close to success, and others just flat out failed. When evaluating your calf management practices, keep these 10 things (listed in no particular order) in mind:

  1. Calving area

    Avoid housing sick cows in the calving pen and keep the calving area as clean as possible to limit a newborn calf’s exposure to pathogens.

  2. Location, location, location

    Prevent the transmission of disease from older cattle to calves by housing calves away from older cattle and removing nose-to-nose contact between the two age groups.

  3. Cleanliness of calf environment

    Cleaning the pen/hutch and buckets after each calf decreases bacteria exposure from calf to calf.

  4. Bedding

    Choose bedding that keeps calves clean, but doesn’t irritate the respiratory system.

  5. Ventilation

    Remember to test airflow at calf height and prevent drafty areas that may cause a calf to become chilled.

  6. Water

    Access to clean water during the day improves calf gain and reduces the effects of heat stress.

  7. Nutrition

    Providing sufficient amounts of milk and starter feed that are free of pests, including flies, promotes higher feed intake and better health.

  8. Lighting

    Ensure the natural or artificial lighting is plentiful so calf care managers can easily observe calves for signs of illness.

  9. Colostrum

    Quality of the colostrum should be measured using a Colostrometer or Brix refractometer for assurance that the calf will receive adequate immunity.

  10. Health records

    Maintaining calf treatment records reduces errors in treating calves and reveals calf disease patterns that can be addressed with your veterinarian.

Feeding Pasteurized Waste Milk to Calves

If you have a steady supply of waste milk, you might consider pasteurizing and feeding it to calves. Many studies show this can result in cost savings, improved calf health and increased growth rates.

Definition of Waste Milk

Waste milk includes colostrum, transition milk, high cell count milk, milk withheld due to antibiotic treatment and mastitic milk. It isn’t recommended to feed raw or pasteurized milk that is overtly abnormal or milk with extremely high bacterial loads. Also, because of the possibility of antibiotic residues in waste milk from treated cows, it shouldn’t be fed to animals being raised for meat; this possibility might also discourage some producers from even feeding it to replacement heifers.

Hows and Whys

Milk replacer costs continue to rise and it is not cost-effective to feed salable milk to calves when milk prices are high. Feeding waste milk can meet calves’ nutritional needs by using an otherwise-discarded product. Feeding raw waste milk is not recommended due to its potential to contain a variety of disease-causing organisms (see box).

Pathogens of Concern in Raw Milk

  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis
  • Salmonella species
  • Mycoplasma species
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Campylobacter species
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Enterobacter species
  • Staphylococcus species
  • E. coli

Pasteurized waste milk (PWM) greatly reduces the pathogen load to which calves are exposed, but not to the complete reduction achieved through the use of well-managed milk replacers. Growth rates on PWM exceed those of traditional milk replacers but are similar to those of new higher-quality milk replacers. The table below compares the nutritional content of milk, waste milk and milk replacers on a dry matter basis.

Nutritional content of milk, waste milk and milk replacers on a dry matter basis
Source Protein Fat
Milk 24 to 27% 28 to 36%
Waste milk 25 to 30% 25 to 35%
Milk replacer 18 to 29% 15 to 20%

Economic analyses found that feeding PWM was cost effective when at least 23 calves were fed in one study and 60 in another. This indicates that PWM feeding is probably not cost effective for smaller operations.

It is recommended to collect and store waste milk in a dedicated bulk tank so the pooled milk can make the nutritional content more uniform and dilute any milk containing antibiotics. Waste milk should be cooled to at least 45°F before and after pasteurization and protected from contamination after pasteurization. This bulk tank should be cleaned and sanitized just like the salable milk tank.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Overview of the potential advantages and disadvantages of feeding PWM to calves.
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Probable feed cost savings, especially in comparison to high quality commercial milk replacers.
  • Compared to raw milk, improved calf health (especially scours and pneumonia) due to reduced exposure to disease-causing agents.
  • Faster growth due to higher nutritional content of waste milk vs. most milk replacers.
  • Effective pasteurization kills up to 99% of bacteria and deactivates toxins
  • Beneficial use of otherwise-discarded products.
  • Various immune factors in whole milk may survive pasteurization and provide protection not available via milk replacer.
  • Cost of pasteurizer and energy to operate it.
  • Increased trained labor for managing, monitoring and cleaning pasteurizer (if not self cleaning).
  • Need to cool and store milk ASAP before and after pasteurization.
  • Dependence on regular volume of useable waste milk.
  • Pasteurization process can fail so must be monitored routinely.
  • Variable nutritional content of batches, especially in small herds.
  • Potential feeding of low-level antibiotics to calves.

Pasteurization Options

Most pasteurizers are either standard batch pasteurizers (commercial or homemade) or commercial high temperature/short time (HTST) continuous-flow machines. Batch units heat a batch of milk to 145°F for 30 min.; the milk is cooled and fed. In HTST systems, milk is rapidly heated to 161°F for 15 sec., then cooled to be fed or held. These units pasteurize milk more quickly, thoroughly and dependably than batch systems, but they are harder to clean unless automated. The price of commercial units continues to drop with increasing acceptance on farms. Colostrum can be pasteurized, but it must be done at a lower temperature for a longer time so immunoglobulins essential for neonatal calf health will not be destroyed; 140°F for 60 min. is recommended.

Conclusions, Problem Solving and Cautions

As you can see, each farm needs to weigh the pros and cons of feeding milk replacer, raw waste milk, salable raw milk or PWM to calves. The ultimate decision is a balance between disease control, feed costs and labor; this decision can fluctuate with market price changes. Here is a summary of suggestions and considerations regarding the feeding of PWM:

  • Do not use heavily contaminated waste milk or visibly mastitic milk for calves.
  • Wait to feed PWM until calves are over one day old.
  • Avoid switching calves between PWM and milk replacer. Estimate expected upcoming waste milk volumes and assign calves to either PWM or milk replacer feeding if there isn’t enough PWN for all. If calves must be switched, try to do so after calves are at least three weeks old.
  • If waste milk volume is low, high somatic cell count milk could be included.
  • Don’t collect milking system flush water with waste milk to be fed to calves; this will dilute milk nutrients excessively.
  • Do not consider pasteurization a shortcut to sanitation, milk handling and best feeding practices. All milk feeding equipment (buckets, bottles, nipples, etc.) still need to be cleaned and sanitized or the disease-reduction benefits of pasteurization will be lost.
  • Agitate and mix stored batches close to feeding time or fat will separate from milk, causing some calves to receive too little fat and others too much.
  • Because pasteurization greatly reduces pathogen loads in milk but does not sterilize it, it is still recommended to house calves individually to prevent suckling and possible disease transmission.
  • Employee training and understanding of pasteurization is essential.
  • Routinely monitor the pasteurization process through temperature checks and milk cultures for quality testing (goal: standard plate count <20,000 cfu/ml).
  • Reminder: calves fed PWM.
  • may ingest antibiotics in milk from treated cows, so withholding periods must be observed.
  • Suggestion: visit with producers who are successful with waste milk pasteurization systems to observe the process, ask questions and learn from their experience.


On a related note, a spreadsheet that helps decide when it is more cost effective to feed milk replacer vs. salable whole milk is available from Penn State Extension. If you do not have access to the internet, contact me and I’ll be happy to work through the spreadsheet with you.

Useful links for additional information

Western Dairy Management Conference

March 3 – March 5, 2015 | Reno, NV

John Ascuaga’s Nugget
1100 Nugget Avenue
Reno, NV 89431

Conference Schedule


  • Tuesday, March 3: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Wednesday, March 4 & Thursday, March 5: 6:30 AM to 5:00 PM

Seminar Schedule

  • Tuesday, March 3: 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Wednesday, March 4 & Thursday, March 5: 8:00 AM – 5:40 PM

Opening Reception

  • Tuesday, March 3: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM


Go to the Western Dairy Management Conference website and complete your registration online. You can also register by mail. Complete and return the attached registration form (one form PER PERSON) along with payment. The conference fee is $390 per person if postmarked by February 1, 2015.

After February 1 the registration fee is $425. Student Registration is $200.

Waste to Worth 2015

March 30 – April 3, 2015 | Seattle, WA

You are invited to attend the International Conference on Livestock & Poultry Environmental Quality

A national network of agri-professionals addressing issues related to air, water, soil, and climate.

Details on registration, hotel accommodations, sponsorship, vendor display registration, program, and tours a the Waste to Worth conference website.

Who should attend?

  • Extension agents & specialists
  • Farmers & producers
  • NRCS staff
  • Technical service providers
  • Consultants
  • Regulatory & policy advisors
  • Commodity groups
  • Environmental NGOs
  • Technology providers
  • Researchers
  • Vendors