High coliform bacteria counts in your colostrum? Now what do you do?

Sam Leadley, a calf-management specialist in Attica, N.Y., explains how one of his clients resolved such a problem.

“To correct the situation we chose to just jump in with both feet, focusing on four critical bacteria control points,” Leadley writes in the January 2013 issue of his Calving Ease newsletter.

One of those critical control points involved the process of chilling colostrum for storage.

On this farm, a couple hours would often lapse before fresh colostrum was delivered to the calf barn where it was prepped for storage. Once there, employees poured the colostrum into 2-quart plastic food containers and put them into a freezer.

“Often more than 30 containers of warm colostrum were added at one time,” Leadley says.

Lack of chilling after colostrum collection and improper freezing practices left too many opportunities for bacteria to multiply in the colostrum.

To correct these issues, the farm put a chest-type freezer in the parlor utility room. They use it to freeze 2-liter plastic bottles of water. As soon as a fresh cow is milked, two of the ice-filled bottles are added to the colostrum-collection bucket.

Now, by the time the colostrum gets to the calf barn it is chilled to around 60°F. It takes longer for bacteria to multiply at this temperature compared to cow body temperature.

“Coliform bacteria take 150 minutes to double at 60° compared to 20 minutes to double at cow body temperature (102°),” Leadley says.