Studies have shown significant benefits of a proper colostrum- feeding protocol. These represent the need to rapidly thaw and feed 4 liters/quarts of high-quality colostrum within 30 minutes after a calf is born.
For farms wanting to use their own colostrum, getting a fresh cow milked, or banked colostrum thawed, in that amount of time can be a real challenge.
A company in Denmark recognized this need and developed a rapid-thaw unit that will bring frozen colostrum to feeding temperature in 20 minutes or less.
In the past year, coloQuick has been brought to the North American market by its exclusive distributor, Golden Calf Company LLC.
Andrew Beckel, owner of Golden Calf Company, says, “The challenge is to get it to them fast enough. Our system warms frozen colostrum efficiently, consistently and without damaging the colostrum itself.”
The thawing unit comes with a filling station where the colostrum can be tested and measured before it is filled into single-dose packages that can hold up to 4 liters of colostrum.
This disposable bag is placed inside a plastic cartridge that not only fits easily into the thawing unit, but also serves as a carrying case with attachable shoulder strap.
Once filled, the individual bags of colostrum can be placed in a freezer or pasteurized with certain variations of the coloQuick system and then frozen.
To thaw, the cartridges are placed inside the unit, which heats up a water bath. It keeps the water heated as the cartridges are rotated around.
On average it takes 15 minutes to thaw one, two or four cartridges.
Very dense colostrum should thaw for 20 minutes, while lower-quality colostrum could take just 12 to 13 minutes, Beckel says. Watch the video.
The cartridge also comes with straps that can be worn over one shoulder or both as a backpack, allowing a feeding with free hands.
There are three different system options to choose from. The initial unit is the thawing unit with room for two cartridges.
A second unit, with two cartridges, also has capability of pasteurization. Each of those machines can service a farm with up to 1,500 cows.
A larger pasteurizing unit, can hold up to four cartridges.
Each system is sold with the thawing/pasteurizing tank, 10 cartridges, disposable bags, esophageal tubes, nipples and shoulder straps.
“The unique stainless-steel tube feeder, which comes standard with any of these systems, is easy to keep sanitized,” Beckel says. “Unlike its plastic counterparts, it also eliminates the risk of getting scuffed up and causing harm to the newborn’s throat.” Additional 4-liter bags can also be purchased.
Midwestern dairyman Derek Lindstrom purchased the two-cartridge pasteurizing/thaw unit just a few weeks ago, and he has already noticed reduced incidences of first-week scours in his newborn calves.
He sees about 90 new calves a month on the dairy he operates with his brother, sister and parents in Durand, Wisconsin.
If the calves keep doing well, he anticipates a payback on the equipment in a couple of years or less.
What attracted Lindstrom to this colostrum thawing unit was the fact that the individual bags are filled prior to pasteurization.
“That leads to less chance of recontamination,” he says.
Dairy producer Brian Horn of Brillion, Wisconsin, also likes how the colostrum is pasteurized in the bags.
“That took the cleaning issue out of it,” he says.
Previously Horn collected the colostrum and stored it in gallon jugs. With an on-farm incubator, he plated samples from various parts of his colostrum system and found that no matter what he tried, he was not successful in keeping the calf’s first meal clean.
He also found he had a storage problem – the plastic gallon jugs wouldn’t freeze fast enough.
“The processing of colostrum was a job nobody wanted,” he says. “Now I’ll walk in and see it all put in bags lined up to be pasteurized. It must be easier if people are willing to do it.”
Horn also has the pasteurizing/thaw unit with room for two cartridges. He typically sees two to three calves born each day on his 450-cow farm.
He estimates that it takes an hour and a half to pasteurize the colostrum. The water in the tank heats up to 140°F, holds it there for about an hour and then well water is used to cool the colostrum back down to 70°F.
That helps it freeze faster, Horn says. Plus, the narrow container aids in achieving freeze and thaw temperatures quicker.
“It upped our colostrum game,” Horn adds. “It cleaned up our process of collection and storage.”
This dairy producer says he likes the fact that a colostrometer came with the thawing system. He hadn’t tested the colostrum before and now he tests every batch.
With the filling station, he finds the bags are filled consistently and his calves are getting way more than they used to. “A lot of them also get a second feeding [of colostrum] because it’s easy to do,” Horn says.
Cows at his farm calve at a different facility than the main dairy. Before he goes up the road to check, he’ll stop and turn the thawing unit on. Once he returns from seeing how many newborns there are, he’ll drop in the amount of colostrum he needs.
Twenty minutes later it is ready to be fed. Meanwhile, the calves are identified, vaccinated, their navel is dipped and they are ready for their first feeding.
To keep the thawing unit clean, he dumps the water out every day and replaces it with fresh water. He adds that it was very easy to plumb and install.
Horn has been using this system since September and has noticed fewer amounts of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics being used on the calves.
He expects to see payback in the form of helping with Johne’s control on any cows that may have slipped through their testing program, cutting back on antibiotic use and better calf health. PD
New technology questions
1. Do you feed colostrum to your calves at birth?
2. Do you have issues with sick calves less than one week old that are not easily explained or are difficult to zero in on a diagnosis?
3. Do you refrigerate or freeze colostrum?
4. Do you wish those containers could freeze the colostrum faster?
5. Do you struggle with keeping your colostrum system clean?
6. Would you like to minimize the amount of containers used for colostrum?
7. Do employees thaw colostrum in a bucket of extremely hot water, potentially harming immunoglobulins?
8. Are calf bottles and nipples not as clean as you would prefer for the calf’s first meal?
9. Is there room for improvement in your calf health protocols?
10. Do you currently pasteurize milk or have interest in pasteurizing colostrum to improve biosecurity for your herd replacements?