Colostrum can be safely heat-treated without hurting antibody levels or increasing viscosity, just keep a close eye on the holding temperature.

According to research cited in the June Journal of Dairy Science, heating colostrum to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 120 minutes did not affect antibody levels or viscosity. However, when the researchers increased the holding temperature to 145 degrees F, it resulted in a 34-percent decrease in IgG concentration and a 33-percent increase in viscosity.

The researchers prefer to call this procedure “heat treatment” rather than pasteurization because it does not use the same time and temperature conventionally used for pasteurizing milk. Current recommendations for “batch” pasteurization of milk are 145 F for 30 minutes.  

An upcoming companion paper to this study will address the optimal length of time that is needed at this lower temperature to kill pathogens in colostrum. Additional research has shown that heating colostrum to 140 F for one hour achieves acceptable pathogen kill, says Sandra Godden, veterinarian at the University of Minnesota.

The researchers say a large, on-farm study is needed to explore the effect of heat-treated colostrum on calf growth and health.

June 2006 Journal of Dairy Science