J Dairy Sci. 2009 Feb;92:3503-3509
DA Moore, J Taylor, ML Hartman, and WM Sischo
Non-saleable whole milk from dairy farms is potentially an economical, nutritious source of feed for neonatal calves but it can have serious quality problems. Many calf-rearing operations that utilize this milk have no system in place to assess or manage quality problems other than pasteurization. The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the quality of non-saleable whole milk from dairy farms being used to feed neonatal calves using a set of standard milk quality monitors. In this study, non-saleable whole milk samples from 12 dairies supplying both milk and calves to one calf ranch were collected and evaluated for total solids (TS) percentage, bacterial counts, coagulation with ethanol, somatic cell counts, and pH. Milk quality was not uniform among the farms. Bacterial counts provided relatively little useful information to assess milk quality, because most samples (9/12) had very high bacteria counts. The most variable quality finding was TS percentage. Many samples were low in TS, contributing to a low TS percentage in pooled milk being fed to calves, which created a poor nutritional product delivered to them. Although there are advantages to feeding non-saleable whole milk to preweaned calves, there can be significant disadvantages if the quality of the product is poor. Microbial quality is an important aspect of milk, but most of the samples were highly contaminated and the need for pasteurization was assumed. Simpler and more immediate monitoring methods such as milk pH, the alcohol test, and TS could be used at the ranch to make decisions on whether to use the milk. On the study ranch, a program to evaluate the TS of non-saleable whole milk was implemented and a chart to add solids was devised for the producer so that the neonatal calves would not be underfed nutrients. Implementing these measures will help improve the health and growth of young calves.