Friday, February 1, 2013

Thawing Frozen Colostrum

Question from client: "What do you think about using a thermostatically-controlled water bath (e.g., turkey roaster) set at 105F to thaw colostrum?

Answer:
Let's review what we are talking about in on-farm terms. You take a turkey roaster out to the barn utility room. Fill it about 3/4 full of water (any more water and it runs over when you put 4 quarts of frozen colostrum in it to thaw). Plug it in and set the thermostat for 105F (use 105 in order to get thawed colostrum at calf-feeding temperature). If you are going to do this I recommend having a small rapid-read thermometer available to measure water temperature - most of the roasters do not have marked temperature settings below 150F.  If you have a probe-type thermometer press it through a 2" square of "Styrofoam" so it can float in the water. 
 
Remember thermostatically-controlled water bath units are not created equally. Look at the electrically specifications plate. It should list the wattage.  Higher wattage units, while more expensive, may maintain water temperature better than those with limited heating ability. Units with greater water volume may be able to thaw the colostrum more quickly than smaller ones.
 
You put 4 quarts of frozen colostrum into the water bath. Now, things get more complicated. If you have frozen the colostrum in freezer-quality self-sealing plastic bags at the rate of 1 quart colostrum in 1 gallon bag, pressed out the air and frozen the bags in a flat position you are placing 4 of these thin bags into the water. Outcome? In about 20-30 minutes expect the colostrum to be slush.
 
If you have frozen the colostrum in 2-quart plastic bottles expect to wait several hours before you can pour the contents into nursing bottles for further warming. If you have frozen the colostrum in 4-quart batches in gallon containers - well, I don't want to even guess on thawing time.
 
Advantages? 
1. You don't have to worry about overheating colostrum and destroying antibodies.
2. Less time spent monitoring the thawing/heating process. No time spent dumping and refilling a bucket with 125-130F water.
 
Disadvantages? 
1. Thawing time is much longer than if you use 125-130F water.
2. Because of long thawing and warming times the chances of not monitoring the thaw/warm process closely go up. There is a higher risk of leaving colostrum at temperatures in the "rapid-growth" range increasing the changes of having high bacteria count. 
 
If you have experience with this method of thawing/warming take a few minutes to drop me an e-mail.

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