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Research digs deep into pasteurized milk nutrition gapsResearch digs deep into pasteurized milk nutrition gaps

Variations can occur when milk is mixed from cows in different lactation stages and health statuses.

December 13, 2017

2 Min Read
Research digs deep into pasteurized milk nutrition gaps

Research by Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products Co. has revealed that the variations in nutrient content and bacteria counts in pasteurized 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 calves, but even if you pasteurize your waste milk, it isn’t providing consistent nutrition for calves,” said Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services at Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products. “The solids levels and protein and fat percentage in your pasteurized milk can change day to day and even from feeding to feeding. This high level of variation makes it challenging to provide a consistent, nutritious diet to young calves.”

Variations in total solids, fat and protein percentages occur when milk is mixed from cows in different lactation stages and health statuses. This can cause gaps in nutrition. Research shows that total solids in pasteurized waste milk can vary by as much as 6.58% on individual farms, with protein variation of 7.9% and fat variation of 17.3%.

Growing concern about antibiotics in waste milk also has given some dairy producers pause when deciding whether to feed pasteurized waste milk. Of the samples in this study, 56.8% contained traces of antibiotics. Many factors may affect antibiotic resistance in calves; however, research shows an increase in resistance in calves fed waste milk compared to calves fed milk replacer.

Pasteurizing waste milk is essential to reducing bacteria, but high bacteria counts can still be a concern. “You can’t always rely on your on-farm pasteurizer to effectively kill 100% of bacteria,” Earleywine noted.

In fact, more than 40% of pasteurizers in this study failed to kill the necessary amount of bacteria when tested immediately after pasteurizing (Table). Samples tested at the last calf fed showed that even more bacteria were present at the end of the feeding.

Bacteria counts


% failed

% poor

% good


(>100,000 CFU)

(20,001-100,000 CFU)

(<20,000 CFU)

Immediately post-pasteurization




Post-pasteurization last calf fed




Source: Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products

“Exposing calves to milk with a high pathogen load can increase incidences of sickness, leading to lower performance and even mortality,” Earleywine said. “Proper management of milk, pasteurizers and feeding equipment, along with supplementing a pasteurized milk balancer and feeding milk replacer to younger calves, can help reduce bacteria fed to calves and improve the nutritional quality of their diet.”

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 five and 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.

To see the full research study, visit http://bit.ly/2y6zJd4.

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