• Bom Harris, DVM

Costs and Benefits of On-Farm Pasteurization


Pasteurizing milk before it is fed to calves reduces pathogens in milk by heating at a fixed temperature for a set length of time. It does not sterilize the milk, but typically kills 99% of pathogens, including the organisms that cause Mycoplasma and Johnes disease.When handled properly, pasteurization virtually eliminates the risks of feeding raw milk to calves.


The Benefits With pasteurized whole milk, you can expect: ▪ A significantly higher rate of gain ▪ Increased production as a lactating cow ▪ Greater longevity in the herd ▪ Decreased calf sickness ▪ Decreased calf death loss

The Challenges Consistency is the biggest challenge to pasteurizing milk for calves. Not all farms have a consistent supply of waste milk. There are ways to address this: ▪ Supplement with non-waste milk. This is best nutritionally. ▪ Feed whole milk to your youngest calves (who stand to reap the most benefit) and switch to milk replacer after a few weeks. (Do not go back and forth.) ▪ Feed a combination of whole milk and milk replacer. This is least desirable nutritionally. Switching between the two can cause serious digestive issues.

Cost You can expect to spend several thousand dollars to start up on-farm pasteurization. However, even our smallest dairies would recover the cost of the pasteurizer in less than a year through savings in milk replacer cost and improved calf health and growth. Larger dairies would pay for it much faster.

Batch pasteurizers are most appropriate for smaller dairies. They are low-temperature, long-time pasteurizers and can be adjusted to pasteurize colostrum. Other types of pasteurizers include HTST (better for larger dairies, more expensive) and UV pasteurizers (less effective and does not kill Johnes). Finally, there is promising research on chemical pasteurization, which may be a way to reap the benefits of pasteurization without the start-up costs of a machine. Quality Control Pasteurization must be done right to be effective. Milk must be collected as hygienically as possible. Pasteurized milk must be cooled and stored appropriately if not fed immediately. What about colostrum? Just as whole milk is nutritionally superior to milk replacer, whole colostrum is superior to powdered colostrum replacer. The process for pasteurizing colostrum is different from the process for milk. Please contact me for more information.

#dairy #pasteurization

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