Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cold Weather and Warm Milk

This is what I observed on a dairy recently. 
  • Cold December morning, truck thermometer showed 22F as I turned off the ignition.
  • Calf feeder comes by the youngest calves and delivers warm milk into their pails.
  • The calves just learning to drink from pails have mixed behavior - some get into the pails and drink as we would expect them to - stop and start, lots of bubble blowing - but, slowly the milk ends up inside the calf. Some calves just don't get started, milk remains untouched.
  • The calf feeder proceeds to deliver milk to the remainder of the calves for the next 30 minutes.
  • Now the 105F milk that was delivered to the pails for the youngest calves is close to 50F.
  • Calf feeder shows up to work at pail training the young and reluctant calves with milk that is more than 50 degrees colder than the body temperature of the calves. 
Do you agree that it would be desirable to change something so that these young calves have warm (100+F) milk to drink?

What would you change?

Sure, having another employee available to work with the youngest calves while the main calf feeder proceeds with milk feeding would probably be an effective solution. BUT, this dairy is reluctant to assign another worker twice a day to do this. 

My recommendation?  

This dairy bottle feeds calves for the first three days now. Then, for as many days as it takes the calves get milk in a pail and learn how to drink from a pail. The calf feeder pretty much knows about how many bottle-fed calves there are for each feeding and how many more calves will need "coaching" to drink from a pail.

With the knowledge of how many calves are going to need individual attention I suggested that before leaving the warm utility room he fill enough nursing bottles with the milk to feed this group of youngest calves. Then place them in buckets of warm water - 4 bottles will fit into a 5-gallon bucket - water temperature depends on the weather - the idea is to keep the milk warm until the calf feeder is available to give individual attention to these youngest calves. 

This procedure seems to work for dairies with 60 to 600 calves - just a matter of planning ahead for these babies to deliver body temperature milk. 

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