Originally written by Tracey Erickson, former SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist.
Milk is the source of nutrients in newborn mammals. When mother’s milk is not available a milk replacer is utilized. To ensure the proper growth and health of the young newborn it is critical provide a quality milk replacer and proper storage of this product is a key component for success.
Spring, summer and fall typically mean higher humidity and fluctuating temperatures. Milk replacer stored in areas without controlled temperature and humidity may absorb moisture causing condensation and clumps in the product. These clumps can cause numerous problems such as increased spoilage, fat oxidation / rancidity (impacting the smell, taste and nutritional value of the milk replacer), it also creates difficulty in handling the product when measuring, mixing, and reconstituting it.
The product should be stored in an area that is between 41°F (5°C) to 68°F (20°C) and equal or less than 60 percent humidity (Grober Nutrition Inc., 2011). A walk-in cooler would work well to store this valuable product. To maximize its freshness one should rotate the milk replacer stock by following the rule of “first in, first out”. The average recommended shelf life of milk replacers is approximately six months under ideal storage conditions. Other considerations for storage include:
- Keeping it away from high humidity places such as your water source or sink/mixing area.
- Do not store directly in the calf barns as calves generate heat & moisture.
- It is preferred to use an air tight container such as a tote to store opened bags in-between uses helps minimize exposure to humidity and pests.
- It is essential to minimize its exposure to pests such as mice, rats, cats, birds, etc. along with moisture by closing or rolling down the bag when you are not using it.
- Store on a pallet so it is not directly on the floor and a few inches away from the walls to help minimize moisture absorption and maximize rodent control.
- Reduce product compaction by not piling more than two pallets high.
- In cold months, you should bring the milk replacer into the warm room one to two days ahead of time, allowing the powder to reach room temperature prior to use.
Using Stored Products
All bags should be inspected before use for color, smell and the expiration date. Ideally milk replacer is a light tan color having 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 (non-enzymatic browning). This reaction occurs due to excessive heat exposure during product storage. As a result, product quality and palatability is 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 (BAMN, 2008).
In summary, providing a milk replacer that is of high quality, free of contaminants and that has been properly stored will help ensure your calf rearing success.
- BAMN, 2008. Bovine Alliance on Management & Nutrition. A guide to calf milk replacers: types, use and quality. AFIA Publications. Arlington, VA.
- Grober Nutrition, Inc. 2011. Calf GroFacts. Milk Replacer Storage.