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Research Digs Deep into Pasteurized Whole Milk Nutrition Gaps

Learn how nutrient content and bacteria counts in pasteurized waste milk samples vary from farm to farm across the U.S.

Variation in nutrient content and bacteria counts in pasteurized whole milk fed to dairy calves might be more than expected.
Many farms have a readily available supply of waste milk and want to feed it to their dairy calves. But even if you pasteurize your waste milk, it isn’t providing consistent nutrition.

Calf Nutrition Variation

The solids levels and protein and fat percentage in your pasteurized whole milk can change day to day and even from feeding to feeding.
Variations in total solids, fat and protein percentages occur when milk is mixed from cows in different lactation stages and health statuses. Research showed total solids in pasteurized whole milk can vary as much as 6.58 percent on individual farms with protein variation of 7.9 percent and fat variation of 17.3 percent.1 (see Table 1). 
Table showing solids variation in pasteurized whole milk on individual farms and across all farms.

This high level of variation makes it challenging to provide a consistent, nutritious diet to dairy calves. And dairy calves love consistency! 

Trace Antibiotics

Growing concern about antibiotics in whole milk also has given some dairy farmers pause when deciding whether to feed pasteurized whole milk. Of the samples in this study, 56.8 percent contained traces of antibiotics. There are many factors that may impact antibiotic resistance in dairy calves. However, research showed an increase in antibiotic resistance in calves fed pasteurized waste milk compared to calves fed milk replacer.2

Bacteria Counts

Pasteurizing waste milk is essential to reducing bacteria. But, even with pasteurization, high bacteria counts can still be a concern. You can’t always rely on your on-farm pasteurizer to effectively kill 100 percent of bacteria.
In fact, more than 40 percent of pasteurizers in this study failed to kill the necessary amount of bacteria when tested immediately after pasteurizing (see Table 2). Samples tested at the last calf fed showed there were even more bacteria present at the end of the feeding.1 

Table showing bacteria counts in pasteurized whole milk post-pasteurization.

Exposing dairy calves to milk with a high pathogen load can increase incidences of sickness, leading to lower performance and even mortality. Proper management of milk, pasteurizers and feeding equipment, along with supplementing with a pasteurized milk balancer or feeding milk replacer to younger calves can help reduce bacteria and improve calf nutrition.
Learn how LAND O LAKES® Pasteurized Milk Balancer® can help fill the gaps in you calf nutrition.
1 Yoho, W.S. et al. T 132 Variation of nutrient content and bacteria count of pasteurized waste milk fed to dairy calves. 2017.
2 Maynou, G., Bach, A., Terré, M., Feeding of waste milk to Holstein calves affects antimicrobial resistance of Escherichia coli and Pasteurella multocida isolated from fecal and nasal swabs. 2017.

This Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products research study on the quality of pasteurized milk was conducted from October 2006 to January 2017. Pre- and post-pasteurized milk samples were collected from 618 dairies across the country with each farm feeding between 5 to 5,000 calves. Milk samples from each farm were collected for seven consecutive days to determine total solids, protein, butterfat, somatic cell count, antibiotic presence and bacteria count.