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Freezing Colostrum also an Option

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
February 1, 2017        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Freezing Colostrum also an Option
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (02/01/17) — About a month ago, I put out an article about colostrum management.  I wrote about “good” colostrum.  Good colostrum comes from a heifer or cow that is healthy, has been vaccinated, and has been in the pre-fresh pen for 2-3 weeks.  The cow should be milked within 4 hours of giving birth, and the udder should be prepared as if it were going into the bulk tank, meaning use of stimulation, teat dip, and cleaning.  I mentioned that if the colostrum isn’t fed right away, it should be stored in the refrigerator.  Colostrum that is in the fridge for longer than 5 days should be thrown out.

While that information isn’t wrong, it doesn’t tell the whole story.  I received a phone call from one of the dairy producers I work with asking about freezing colostrum—“is that okay to do?”—he asked.  The answer is YES.  It was my mistake to not mention that colostrum can also be frozen for long-term storage as a backup supply for cows that may not produce enough colostrum for their calves.  If you plan to freeze colostrum, it is commonly recommended to do so within 24 hours in order to preserve the colostrum at its highest quality. 

There are colostrum freezer bags you can purchase but a regular plastic freezer bag will work just fine.  I recommend you double bag the colostrum.  Be sure the bag is clearly labeled with the amount of colostrum it contains, which cow it came from, and the date. Colostrum can also be stored in bottles, and should be labeled the same way.  Various sources state that colostrum should be frozen in 1 or 2 quart quantities.   When putting bagged colostrum in the freezer, lay it flat in order to reduce thawing time when you are ready to use it.  Colostrum can be stored in a freezer for up to a year, but it is likely it will be used before that amount of time has passed.  Again, making sure colostrum is dated will ensure it is used in a timely manner. 

When you are ready to use your frozen colostrum, make sure it is thoroughly thawed.  Thawing can be done by placing bags or bottles in warm (NOT hot) water.  Water less than a 120*F is ideal.  Colostrum can also be thawed in a microwave, but should be done with caution to avoiding destroying the immunoglobulins.  If microwaving, use low power and short time increments.  Dr. Jim Quigley suggests, “pour off the thawed liquid periodically to minimize heating.” 

Freezing colostrum is a great way to preserve a precious on-farm resource.  Having some stored colostrum handy is useful for orphan calves or if a cow doesn’t produce enough colostrum on her own.  My biggest tips are make sure the colostrum is stored appropriately and properly labeled.  Colostrum management is vital to your calves, the future of your farm.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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