INCREASED demand for dry whey used in sports drinks and other human foods has driven up the price of calf milk replacer, according to Tracey Erickson, a South Dakota State University extension dairy field specialist.
Erickson said using proper storage practices for milk replacers is even more essential to help the product retain its quality.
As the seasons change, so do humidity and temperature. Milk replacer stored in areas without controlled temperature and humidity may absorb moisture, causing condensation and clumps in the product. Erickson explained that these clumps can cause numerous problems, such as increased spoilage and fat oxidation (affecting the smell and taste of the milk replacer), as well as difficulty in handling the product when measuring, mixing and reconstituting it.
To maintain product quality, the milk replacer should be stored at a temperature between 41 degrees F and 68 degrees F and humidity equal to or less than 60%.
A walk-in cooler would work well to store milk replacer powder. To maximize its freshness, Erickson suggested that the milk replacer stock be rotated by following the "first in/first out" rule.
The average recommended shelf life of milk replacers is approximately six months under ideal storage conditions, according to Erickson. Other storage considerations to maximize shelf life include:
* Keep milk replacer away from high-humidity areas such as a water source or the sink/mixing area.
* Do not store it in calf barns because calves generate heat and moisture.
* It is essential to minimize its exposure to pests such as mice, rats, cats, birds, etc. Close any opened bag when not in use.
* Use an airtight container such as a tote to store opened bags between uses to minimize exposure to humidity and pests.
Erickson added that all bags should be inspected before use for color and smell. Ideally, milk replacer is a light-tan color that has a pleasant, bland odor. However, if the powder has a brownish-orange color and a caramelized smell, it may have undergone the Maillard Browning reaction, or non-enzymatic browning.
She explained that this reaction occurs due to excessive heat exposure during storage. As a result, product quality and palatability are reduced.
"If the color is fine but there is an off-smell such as paint, grass, clay or gasoline, the fat in the product may have become rancid," Erickson said.