Product & Industry News

Calves, milk and bacteria: How clean is your kitchen?

Kelli Boylen for Progressive Dairyman

Colostrum, milk and milk replacers are all excellent sources of nutrients for calves, but also for bacteria.

Jenn Bentley of Iowa State University Extension says when that abundance of nutrients is combined with moisture, you have the key elements for bacterial proliferation, which can be detrimental to your calves’ health.

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February 2020 Calf Blog

February 2020 Calf Blog

Nipples? Bottles? Buckets? or Nipple Buckets?

Which do you choose?

During discussions of raising calves, a common question often arises – what’s the best method for feeding calves? Is it nipples, bottles, buckets, or nipple buckets? Well, the answer is quite simple. The best method of feeding milk is the one that works best for you.

Many producers can make any one of these methods work well. Published research suggests that calves do best when fed from buckets, then nipple bottles, and tend to have the most trouble when feeding from nipple pails. It is generally assumed that higher success with buckets and lower success with nipple pails are due to the difficulty in keeping nipples clean. Milk or milk replacers that are not removed from nipples can lead to a build up of bacteria, leading to disease and death of calves.

However, there are some characteristics and features about each method of feeding liquid.   One reason people use bottles is, Full is Full, no measuring needed.

Nipple bottles are the most “natural” of the three methods. Nipples most closely resemble the cow’s teats. This method of feeding liquid is easiest – nearly all calves quickly learn to drink from a nipple bottle (of course, there’s always the occasional “stupid” calf). You can raise the bottle to a sufficient height to allow the calf to attain a natural position – head and neck raised slightly. The main disadvantage of nipple bottles is their size. The vast majority of nipple bottles hold only 2 quarts. So, if you want to feed more than 1 gallon of liquid per day, you’ll need to feed in more than two feedings. There is however now more sizes available and different nipples that help in ease of feeding.

Nipples are the most difficult part of nipple bottles to keep clean.  Often, the small hole in the nipple used to equalize pressure in the bottle can become plugged, forcing the calf to suckle extremely hard to obtain its milk.  These holes should be checked and cleaned out often.

Buckets are easy to use – after you teach the calf to drink from the bucket. Buckets can hold more liquid than bottles, are easy to clean, and can be easily stored or used for other purposes when not feeding calves. However, teaching a calf to drink from a bucket can be frustrating – for you and for the calf. Drinking from a bucket is unnatural – calves prefer to drink “up”, not “down”. And teaching a reluctant calf to drink “down” can be a real test in patience! In my experience, the best way to teach calves to drink from a bucket is to place two fingers (previously moistened with milk) in the calf’s mouth. Let the calf start sucking on your fingers. Using the other hand, slowly lower the calf’s head into the liquid. As soon as the calf’s mouth reaches the surface of the liquid, I’ll open my two fingers slightly to allow liquid to pass between the fingers and into the calf’s mouth. After the calf has consumed some of the liquid, I’ll slowly remove my fingers from its mouth. Usually, it takes at least two attempts (and often many more!) before the calf figures out what’s happening. Often, it’ll “come up for air” and not be able to find the liquid again. You’ll have to repeat the process. Most calves will learn in a few minutes. Other calves may take several days of effort. It’s important to remember that they’re babies and you’re trying to teach them something quite unnatural. Be patient!

Nipple buckets are a cross between bottles and buckets. They have the advantages of bottles with the capacity of buckets. The most common problem with nipple buckets is improper sanitation. It’s very important to keep the nipples clean. This must be done after each feeding, which is not done on too many farms. If the nipples are not cleaned, bacteria may build up inside, exposing the calf to disease causing pathogens. You can do a good job with nipple buckets, but remember, keep it clean!

Most research suggests that there is little biological advantage to any of these feeding methods. The most important thing to consider is sanitation. Clean bottles, buckets and nipples with hot water and a strong disinfectant. We generally use, an antibacterial soap . After cleaning, let the bottles, buckets, (upside down) and nipples dry before the next use. Keep ’em clean and keep ’em healthy

My one liner is bacteria doesn’t like dry environments .

Calf Star handles feeding equipment for any feeding style and also offer Chlorine Dioxide for  your sanitation purposes.  

Let Calf Star be your go to for your calf feeding needs.

Happy February.


January 2020 Calf Blog

January 2020! A New Year, a New Blog Season…

The last few months we have focused on Colostrum and the impact it has on your newborn calf.

Lets talk about the “Liquid Gold” Colostrum and take home ideas for strengthening colostrum management.

  1. Keep good records on colostrum feeding – timing, quantity, quality, periodic checks on bacteria counts. Remember the freezing / thawing process.
  2. Goals: first feeding of 4 quarts of high quality, clean colostrum within first 4 hours of life (large breeds).
  3. Adapt farm protocols to allow colostrum collection as soon as the dam is standing post calving [highest quality colostrum available].
  4. Adapt farm protocols to permit feeding of colostrum within 30 minutes after it is collected (assumes adequate volume and quality). What’s your back up plan?
  5. Adapt farm protocols to permit collection of second and subsequent milking’s (often-called transition milk) and prompt feeding to newborn calves.

Happy New Year…..

Also, if you have questions regarding your calf program or well being of your animals,  please reach out and I will address it in a future blog.


December Calf Blog 2019

Colostrum Freezing and Thawing Process

So the last 2 blogs have been written around Colostrum, the liquid gold!

So, I would like to continue with the topic of Colostrum and discuss the freezing and thawing process.

As you know, colostrum is an excellent source of nutrition and immune proteins that transport protection to the calf.  Because colostrum is so important to the newborn calf, producers need to have options if the cow doesn’t have enough colostrum or the quality isn’t met.  Storing colostrum is one of those options of maintaining a “Colostrum Bank”.

Refrigerating Colostrum: Colostrum can be refrigerated for 1 week before the IgG concentration quality decreases.  Often times you may need to make sure your refrigerator is at the correct temperature.  Set a thermometer in the refrigerator to make sure it holds a temperature of 33-35 F.  Colostrum needs to be chilled as soon as possible to reduce the chance of bacteria growth.  IgG protein molecules will degrade significantly by bacteria growth.  This will reduce the chance for the newborn calf to absorb the IgG’s provided through clean colostrum.

How about freezing: Colostrum can be frozen for up to a year.  Frost Free is not desirable as the freezer goes through freeze-thaw cycles which can change the storage life of good quality colostrum.

Freeze colostrum in 1 gallon or 2 qt. freezer bags (colostrum bags are desired) lay bags flat in the freezer and maintain a temperature of -5F.

Now let’s focus on the thawing process: Our main goal is to thaw the colostrum slowly without destroying the immune protein IgG’s.  The best method is to warm the colostrum to 120F, massaging the bag periodically will help with thawing a bit faster.

The First Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer/Warmer can help with thawing your colostrum faster.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season!


November Calf Blog

Minimizing Bacteria Replication

So last month I focused on Colostrum and the importance of IgG’s.  I am going to go a step further and discuss the bacteria load and the importance of minimizing the bacteria replication.

The importance of early feeding of colostrum to the young calf is critical to protecting the gut of the calf as well as providing immune protection.  But, there is another reason to feed colostrum early.  Delayed colostrum feeding when the colostrum has been milked from the cow means that the bacteria and other pathogens in colostrum will be allowed to grow.  Referencing the growth of bacteria research from University of California, Davis showed that when colostrum was left at room temperature for any period of time the growth of bacteria was overwhelming.  Within 6 hours, the number of bacteria in the colostrum well exceeded 10 million per milliliter.  Our goal is under 10,000.  This amount of bacteria fed to the calf will untimely affect the health of the calf significantly or even cause death.  This is where the importance of IgG’s and either feeding the colostrum ASAP or chilling/freezing the colostrum comes into play.  All of the steps within the first 2-4 hours after birth are very critical.  I always tell producers; You only get this chance ONCE and then it’s gone.  SO do it well.

Colostrum and other milk products are excellent growth media for bacteria.  Unless the cow calves with mastitis or another infection, there should be little contamination of colostrum.  Be sure to minimize contamination of milk from the cow by using clean milking equipment, collection equipment, and feeding equipment.  If your colostrum is sitting more than one hour consider pasteurizing your colostrum milk.  When pasteurizing colostrum, the steps before and after are just as critical as the proper feeding of the calf.

Check out our user friendly, easy to use: First Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer/Warmer to help with your colostrum pasteurizing needs.

October Calf Blog

The Importance of Colostrum

Colostrum Feeding Primer
So, what’s so special about Colostrum?  First, it’s the first milk produced
from the cow directly after calving.  Not 4 hours after, not 12 hours after but directly after calving.  The more time that elapses after calving she
starts what I call the dilution effect.  She starts producing milk for
Now as I stated this is the first milk, I call it “Liquid Gold”.  The other facet is you only get this opportunity ONCE to feed this high quality milk to the calf asap after calving.  So what is so special about this “Liquid Gold”
product?  Colostrum and transitional milk differ markedly from milk in
composition, physical properties and the function. Colostrum contains
much larger amounts of solids, proteins and immunoglobulins.  Colostral Immunoglobulins or antibodies are proteins critical to the identifying
and destroying pathogens in the calf. 
There are three types of Ig in colostrum.  IgG, IgM and IgA.  There is also
two isotypes of Ig, IgG1 & IgG2.  These Ig work together to provide the calf with passive immunity until the calf’s own active immunity develops. 
Colostrum contains 70-80% IgG, 10-155 IgM, and 10-15% IgA.  Most of the
IgG in bovine colostrum is IgG2. Each Ig has a different role in the
animal.  IgG is the most prevalent in colostrum and serum.  It’s primary
role is to identify and help destroy invading pathogens. 
Because it is smaller than other Ig, it can move out of the blood stream
and make its way into other body pools where it helps identify
pathogens.  IgM is the antibody that serves as a first line of defense in
cases of septicemia.  IgM is a large molecule that stays in the blood stream and protects against bacterial invasion.  IgA protects mucosal surfaces
such as the intestines.  It attaches to the intestinal lining and prevents
pathogens from attaching and causing disease. Feeding colostrum for 3
days after birth is a great idea.  That provides IgA to both the gut and
protect against pathogens.  Colostrum contains large amounts of IgG and smaller amounts of IgM and IgA.  All three Ig are important to the calf
and are necessary to minimize the chances of disease or even death. 
However, it is important to remember the Ig are only one part of the
calf’s immune system.  Proper nutrition, minimizing stress factors and a
clean environment also helps keep calves healthy. Look to our First Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer/Warmer to help maintain a clean colostrum
product to your calf. -Minnie

September Calf Blog

Back to School!

It’s Back to School Time!
For some of us it’s a time to appreciate the young adults we have around us.  The extra help we had for the last few months is going back to
So how do you replace their time? Even though some of these kids are in grade school they still have a purpose.  Usually to help with calves, bedding, feeding and or even driving tractors.  It seems like a minimal task but yet they are a valuable asset to us. I will miss my girls as they start a new school year as they help quite a bit with chores.  It’s even better when
they get to the age you can trust their decisions and feel comfortable leaving them in charge for a day. 
“In Charge” now that’s a term!  These farm kids truly know the value of
getting things done and accomplishing a task.  They put pride into what
they do.I recently was on a farm with a Mom and her 8th grade son.  He
clearly didn’t like the duties his Mom had laid out for him yet he put his
head down and went to work.  How many of us as adults feel the same
way some days, right? 
What I do know is that with some of the equipment we have today to feed our calves with, the task of a grueling job becomes one of pleasure and
even somewhat of a fun event. 
Let’s take one piece of equipment that we carry in our line of Calf Feeding Equipment, The Milk Taxi.  Our daughter the other night was in charge of feeding calves.  She knows that level #1 is for young calves under 7 days
of age and calves that are being weaned, level #2 is for the calves 7-21
days and level #3 is for all older calves.  We have the Electric Drive on our Milk Taxi which makes it easy to move around the farm.  Now what kid
wouldn’t want to help feed calves! 
When feeding is done and the Milk Taxi is rinsed, we put it into a wash
cycle where we are confident everything is getting cleaned.  Now how
much fun is that! My October blog will focus on preparing for colder
weather.  See you at World Dairy Expo where we will have on hand: Calf
Jackets and our newest Colostrum Pasteurizer the First-Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer. -Minnie

August Calf Blog

Calves and the Hot Summer Heat!
So how did everyone, or more importantly how did your calves do last month during that heat spell?  Let’s focus this month on the extreme heat and humidity events that the summer months bring.   

Calves have heat stress just like any other animals.  Quite a few years ago I did some research on both heat stress and cold stress in calves.  Both take calories away from immune function and average daily gain.  So ask yourself, is consistency being addressed for both nutrition and sanitation?  If you have more than one person feeding calves these events can become more of a factor than one realizes. 

Lets talk nutrition and heat stress, you still need calves to consume milk.  But on extreme hot days some, mostly younger calves, may shy away from drinking their full milk amount.  So then what is your game plan?  Electrolytes I hope.  Most electrolytes have sugars added into them, I tend to lean on electrolytes that have sugar, sodium bicarb and calcium.  This way they can balance their hydration yet get some added calories throughout the day!  Same in the winter months, calories, calories, calories! 

Did we consistently get fluids into these stressed calves.  The next factor, how are you going to get these fluids into our calves?  Are you bottle feeding, tube feeding, or some require IV.  Are you recording these calves that are getting extra fluids?  Both heat stress and cold stress may influence secondary events so be on your “A” game with record keeping. 

Some of the recent research on Chlorine Dioxide has also shown benefits for reducing pathogens in water used for feeding and a Chlorine Dioxide solution for sanitation purposes. 

We at Calf Star have what it takes for your consistency in feeding calves and the chemical for controlling environmental pathogens.  Please take some time to visit our website for added resources and calf feeding equipment to make your life easier as well as consistent for a healthier animal.  Don’t hesitate to contact your regional representative with questions! 

Current Calf Star promotions include:
0% Financing for 24 months on the Milk Taxi
3.99% on HTST Pasteurizers 


July Calf Blog

How many CALORIES do my Calves actually need?
Good sunny day here in the Midwest.  Finally some actual warm days where I don’t have to put layers on!  So with layers comes the question….How many calories do my calves actually need? 

We usually talk in terms of solids when talking about nutrition in young calves.  Whether you feed whole milk or milk replacer it is all about grocery’s consumed by the calves.  We know that the more colostrum a calf gets at birth correlates to the immune function and growth/milk production or ADG for bull calves.
I was asked, “So how do solids convert to calories when feeding milk replacer?”  I had to dig to find this answer.  Here’s what I came up with: based on a 86# calf fed 2 times per day. 

Say we are feeding a 20/20 all milk powder starting at 12.5% solids just for maintenance in warm weather (above 50 degrees) feeding rate at 1.50# of powder into 2 quarts of water you will received 2,972 calories. 

Now if we move to a 20/20 same product and feed 1.25# powder at a 14% solid we move down to 2,477 calories.  So calories came from the additional powder fed at a 12.5% and 1.5# of milk powder. 

Now another scenario is if you feed a 24/22 all milk at a 14% solid and 1.5# of powder into 2 quarts your calories increase significantly to 3,040 calories.  So what if you feed whole milk, well what we know is milk weighs 8.6# in a gallon based on 3.1% protein, 3.6% fat and 4.8% lactose will equal 3,498 calories. 

The basics:8.6 pounds whole milk x 3.1% protein = .27 pounds of protein from whole milk 1.5 pounds calf starter x 18% protein = .27 pounds of protein from calf starter.

Let’s look at the math of whole milk and the solids content of the popular 20-20 milk replacers.  The feeding rates are based upon 1 gallon Holstein whole-cow milk protein and calorie equivalents per head daily as a minimum feeding rate. 

Milk replacers can supply the same total solids as whole milk but generally not the same nutrition, as milk replacers are generally higher in ash and carbohydrate fractions than that of the equivalent weight of dehydrated powdered whole milk. 

We also need to remember to feed free choice water from the beginning which will help drive starter intakes.  With warmer weather in the picture we still need to remember that all young calves need to be fed to support immune functions and growth.  Calories are not always equal as it is for us watching our nutrition! 


June Calf Blog

It’s Show Season!
Oh boy, cattle are picked out and the list of wants are endless.  Does this happen at your house? 

It’s that time of year we all look forward to but it comes with a lot of patience and enthusiasm.  Do you show cattle and what are your go to’s every year? 

I have a teenage daughter that loves the show ring.  We don’t milk cows so we have turned to leasing these animals.  It gives her the ability to work with some phenomenal people and cattle in the industry.  It’s fun to watch her grow in her excitement in the dairy industry and competing in the ring.  She is so thrilled to have the opportunity to be apart of something each year that continues to grow that network of people. 

It also has expanded her ability to choose animals that she would not have the chance to show if it were not for some wonderful families out there that have adopted her into their show family.  She has the chance to choose different breeds so she can see each breed traits and find the right fit for her.  Trust me, she has had some tough animals to break, of course with the help of Mom & Dad staying close by in the previous years. 

So for you farm families, leasing animals to kids that do not have a chance otherwise to participate in the show ring is truly a rewarding experience for both involved.  I suggest you consider giving it a try!  

See you in the show ring!