Colostrum is the most valuable asset on your dairy. Knowing how to properly pasteurize and store colostrum is an essential requirement for any dairy. Here is how to do it right.
Heat treating colostrum, often called pasteurizing, can be done – but not the same way you pasteurize whole milk for older calves. Much research has been conducted to determine the exact time and temperature. Various combinations of high-temperature short-time pasteurization (HTST), low-temperature long-time pasteurization (LTLT) were tried with one conclusion. Colostrum can only be pasteurized at exactly 140ºF for exactly 60 minutes.
A single degree temperature change can mean the difference between creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth or denaturing all that’s good and valuable in colostrum.
Following these findings, this process is sufficient to maintain IgG concentrations and fluid characteristics while eliminating or significantly reducing important pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, Salmonella enteritidis, Mycoplasma bovid and Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.
Colostrum has twice the solids compared to calf milk ( check out our article on the Difference Between Colostrum and Milk). Because the higher solids content represents more food for bacteria, it is essential to store it properly. Storing colostrum at cooler temperatures reduces and prevents bacterial growth.
Colostrum should be stored for no more than 24 hours in the refrigerator for immediate use. Any intention to store colostrum longer should automatically mean that the colostrum gets stored in a freezer. The reason is simply practical – it is easy to remember whether or not the bottle was put into the refrigerator yesterday, rather than trying to figure out how many days it might have been sitting in there – just think of the leftovers in your fridge at home 😉
Storing colostrum in the fridge also doesn’t completely stop bacterial growth, it only slows it down! So by the time you pull the colostrum out three days later, there are more bacteria than immunity.
Thawing and Warming Colostrum
Warming colostrum must be done with similar care. On many farms, this is considered the most time-consuming and challenging part of successfully managing colostrum. It is not acceptable to just turn the water on as hot as it goes and throws the frozen colostrum bags or bottles in the sink. Instead, you should always use a thermometer or a water bath that guarantees safe temperatures.
The IgGs limit the temperature that can be used to thaw colostrum. Research has proven that the maximum temperature the IgGs can handle, before they become denatured, is 140ºF. To be safe, aim for thawing your colostrum in water no hotter than 120ºF.
Before feeding to the calf, check the temperature of the colostrum with a thermometer, never with your hand. The ideal temperature for feeding is the same temperature as the calf’s body, which is around 102ºF. A safe goal for colostrum temperature can range between 100 to 106ºF.
Also, take into consideration the distance the colostrum meal has to travel before it actually gets to the calf. A bottle of warm colostrum can experience temperature drift if there are extreme cold temperatures and a considerable distance to travel.