Dairy calf milk replacer prices have climbed as a result of increased demand for dry whey used in human foods such as sports drinks. Therefore, it is essential to properly store milk replacer so that it retains its quality until it is used.
Spring, summer and fall typically mean higher humidity and fluctuating temperatures in the Upper Midwest. Milk replacer stored in areas without controlled temperature and humidity may absorb moisture causing condensation and clumps in the product. These clumps can cause numerous problems such as increased spoilage and fat oxidation (impacting the smell and taste of the milk replacer). It also creates difficulty in handling the product when measuring, mixing, and reconstituting it.
Milk replacer should be stored in an area that is between 41°F (5°C) to 68°F (20°C) and equal or less than 60 percent humidity (Grober Nutrition Inc., 2011). A walk-in cooler would work well to store this valuable product. To maximize its freshness, one should rotate the milk replacer stock by following the rule of “first in, first out”. The average recommended shelf life of milk replacers is approximately six months under ideal storage conditions.
Other considerations for storage include (Grober Nutrition Inc., 2011):
- Keep it away from high humidity places such as your water source or sink/mixing area.
- Do not store in the calf barns as calves generate heat & moisture.
- Minimize its exposure to pests such as mice, rats, cats, birds, etc.
- Close any opened bag when you are not using it.
- Use an air-tight container such as a plastic tote to store opened bags in-between uses to help minimize exposure to humidity and pests.
- Reduce product compaction by not stacking more than two pallets high.
- Inspect all bags before use for color and smell. Ideally milk replacer is a light tan color with a pleasant, bland odor. However if the powder has a brownish-orange color and a caramelized smell it may have undergone the Maillard Browning reaction (non-enzymatic browning). This reaction occurs due to excessive heat exposure during product storage. As a result product quality and palatability is reduced. If the color is fine but there is an off-smell (such as paint, grass, clay or gasoline) the fat in the product may have become rancid (BAMN, 2008).
In summary, providing a milk replacer that is of high quality, free of contaminants and that has been properly stored will help ensure your calf-rearing success.