Challenges of Warming Colostrum
Yesterday I was on a dairy that feeds colostrum from bottles stored in a refrigerator. They have to warm each bottle before it can be fed.
As I stood at the sink in the milk house I asked the calf care person to show me how she warms colostrum. She sat a plastic container in the sink and filled it with water.
The critical piece of information here is the temperature of water in the container. She put adjusted the hot and cold water faucets to a familiar position and put her hand into the water. After a moment she turned up the hot water volume a bit. Then she said, "There, that is just right."
The water was actually close to 130 F (55C). She was correct - this is a very good temperature for warming colostrum without damaging the antibodies. You may recall that when colostrum is exposed to excessively high temperatures (more than 140F, 60C) the antibodies are damaged and are no longer effective for preventing infections.
I asked her, "How do the guys on the night shift warm colostrum?" The reason I asked this question is that I had just asked her about the source of the hot water in the milk house. She said it came from the same supply as the hot water for washing the milk pipeline in the milking parlor - that water is 170F (77C).
She told me that her instructions to the night workers that warm colostrum feeding newborn calves is to run the water no hotter than they can stand to run over their hand. She was quite confident that these workers were following the warming protocol satisfactorily.
On another farm I saw a short (8 inches or 20cm) piece of milker hose on the end of the mixer faucet in the milk house sink. The dairyman had inserted at a 30 degree angle an inexpensive rapid-read thermometer into the hose. This instrument measured the temperature of the water going through the milker hose - thus, when you wanted 130F water for warming colostrum you simply adjusted the hot and cold water faucets until the thermometer was as this temperature.
Just for review you may want to go over the points on this Colostrum Feeding Checklist. Click HERE for this checklist.