Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Using waste milk is not worth the risks

Waste milk is milk that is not saleable. It usually refers to transition milk, or milk from cows which have been treated with antibiotics and whose milk is within the recommended withdrawal period.

It can also include milk from cows with high somatic cell count. It may seem like a good idea to feed this milk to calves, as it would have to be thrown away otherwise.

However, Animal Health Ireland maintains there are a number of reasons why you should not feed raw waste milk to your calves.

1.Antibiotic residues

Milk from cows that have been treated with antibiotics and which is within the withdrawal period will contain residues from those drugs.

This can affect the taste of the milk resulting in the calves not drinking as much as they should.

Even worse, it can lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to these antibiotics.

This means that if you try to treat animals with these antibiotics they may not work as effectively as might otherwise be the case.

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2.High bacterial contamination

By its nature, waste milk is usually high in bacteria, especially if it contains high cell count milk.

It will deteriorate even further if left at room temperature until it is fed. Apparently healthy cows may, in fact, be transmitting disease to the calves.

A typical example is Johne's Disease, which can be transmitted through the milk from apparently healthy cows to calves at their most vulnerable stage.

Other examples include Salmonella and E. coli. One strategy to decrease pathogen load and still utilise waste milk is to pasteurise the milk to kill off the bacteria.

Animal Health Ireland recommends that milk with a high bacterial contamination should only be fed to calves after pasteurisation.

3.Transition Milk

Milk from the first eight milkings is known as transition milk.

Depending on the disease status of your farm, feeding raw transition milk from healthy cows and excess saleable milk should have a lower risk than feeding raw milk contaminated by antibiotics or high in SCC.

However, best practice is to pasteurise this milk, and chill for storage before feeding to calves.

Irish Independent