March 2020 Calf Blog

Acidified Milk And/Or Pasteurized Milk….? 

SO the question for me this month is Acidified milk and or Pasteurized milk?

As group housing or paired housing systems for calves have gained popularity in recent years, interest in acidifying milk systems has also been renewed. This blog describes reasons for acidifying milk or milk replacer and examines research on acidified milk feeding systems and the benefits of both Pasteurized milk & acidified programs.

So the reason behind pasteurizing or acidifying is to reduce bacteria loads or further the growth of bacteria.  If feeding whole milk, if not fed immediately after pasteurizing, you will need to either chill and reheat or add an acidifier for added shelf life.  The reason behind producers pasteurizing is they have known incidents of mycoplasma, leukosis, salmonella and or any other bug that can cause health issues in calves.   If you just use an acidifier and have any of these issues you will not eliminate the bugs from doing damage.  Milk provides a very favorable environment for bacterial growth. Preserving milk in this way allows larger quantities of milk to be provided for ad libitum feeding of calves. Without needing to chill milk before feeding. The initial amount and type of bacteria in milk will have an effect on how long milk can be stored before bacterial populations reach levels that can affect calf health. In addition, each calf’s level of immunity will impact susceptibility to infection.

Using acidified products for both whole milk and or milk replacer, research has been written stating that using a product does not harbor health or growth of the calves. In some models it actually enhances intakes which as we all know calculated into a larger calf at weaning.

Acidification refers to lowering the pH of the milk with the addition of organic acids. Two different types of programs are your best options.

  • Option 1: Formic acid is added to the milk replacer when it is being mixed on-farm, best added when the milk is cool (with careful attention that you aren’t adding more liquid and reducing the percent of solids fed) since it can cause clotting if skim milk powder is a part of the formulation.

This type of acidification program supports ad-libitum milk programs – lowering the pH to 4.2-4.5 can reduce bacterial growth, allowing milk to be left available for calves at all times.

  • Option 2: Organic acids are added to the milk replacer at time of manufacture, (in the replacer when purchased) which lowers the pH (5.5) of the solution once mixed. This program has been associated with less scouring, increased intakes and lower pH in the abomasum (true stomach). The reduction of pH in the abomasum is expected to improve digestion of milk ingredients by facilitating clot formation.

Milk or milk replacer feeding systems need to be cleaned daily and acidification of the liquid feed should not be done just to minimize cleaning.

Don’t forget the cleaning/sanitation component of calf feeding with chlorine dioxide.  Let Calf Star be your calf equipment go to for feeding calves.

-Minnie