Robotic Milking & Colostrum
I visited another dairy with robotic milking equipment. This dairy, like several others I have visited, does a great job managing the cows and producing lots of milk.
However, this dairy, like several others I have visited, manages to highly inoculate the colostrum by the time it goes into the nursing bottle for the calf.
How can this happen? Well, let's start at the beginning. We want clean teats for colostrum collection. Is the robotic milker equipment set up to prepare fresh cow teats for milking? Not necessarily depending on the dry cow housing. In robotic barns I recommend restraining fresh cows post-calving and manually cleaning up the teats with special attention to teat ends - don't depend on the robot to do the full job on these cows.
Next we need clean milking equipment. I have not seen any gaps in sanitation in the robotic units during my visits. I cannot make any recommendations for improvement at this step.
What comes next? Well, it depends on the brand of robot. All of them send the colostrum to some kind of holding unit. Almost uniformly none of the ones I have seen receive special attention to prepare for colostrum collection. I recommend cleaning using a simple four-step washing procedure. Click on this link, Washing Protocol, to access the procedure.
If the storage unit is judged to be clean, nevertheless, I recommend a quick rinse pre-collection with a hot water bleach solution. This is the same recommendation as I make for any colostrum handling system.
Where there may be some delay in feeding and/or processing the colostrum I suggest adding a food preservative such as potassium sorbate to extend the generation time for bacterial growth. A brief summary of how much product to add to various quantities of colostrum can be found HERE. Other information on potassium sorbate use in colostrum is at www.calffacts.com.
A quick summary about using potassium sorbate in colostrum at the DairyHerd magazine archives can be found at this location - click HERE.