Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Boost the nutrition content of pasteurized waste milk

Tom Earleywine Published on 20 November 2013
land o lakes worker checking nutritional value

Properly pasteurized waste milk is an excellent source of nutrition for young calves, but you might be surprised by the variation in its nutritional composition.

A recent four-year national study that evaluated waste milk over a seven-day period on 252 individual farms showed a broad range of levels for solids, fat and protein content.



The results: Solids content ranged from a low of 1.1 percent to a high of 36 percent.

Protein was as low as 0.02 percent and as high as 6.4 percent. Fat content varied from a low of 0.2 percent to a high of 28.7 percent.

The nature of how waste milk is procured explains a lot of this variation.

On most farms, waste milk is a combination of transition milk from recently fresh cows and milk from sick cows being treated with medications or who are in their post-treatment drug withholding period.

Regular, salable milk typically is about 12.5 percent solids, 3.0 percent protein and 3.6 percent fat. Colostrum usually is about 24 percent solids, 14 percent protein and 6.7 percent fat.


So depending on the ratio of transition cows to sick cows, the nutritive content of waste milk can vary greatly on any given day.

Add to that the fact that waste milk often is not agitated as frequently or thoroughly as salable bulk-tank milk. And occasionally, human error results in wash water entering the waste milk supply.

Pasteurized milk balancer ensures steady nutrition

Because most dairies generate enough waste milk to feed 30 to 60 percent of their calves, it is important that its nutritional content regularly and adequately addresses the needs of growing youngstock.

About 50 percent of a dairy cow’s frame growth occurs in the first six months of life. If young replacement heifers are short-changed on nutrition in their milk-feeding phase, that’s lost growth that cannot be recovered later in their lives.

Adding a pasteurized milk balancer to waste milk is a practice that ensures consistency in the diets of calves fed pasteurized waste milk. Some balancers contain a level of protein similar to milk and a low level of fat. The low level of fat helps to encourage intake of starter grain.

In addition to normalizing the nutrient levels in pasteurized waste milk, pasteurized milk balancer products can be used along with added water to extend waste milk supplies. They are fortified with vitamins and minerals to support calf health and growth.


And they create the option of serving as a delivery vehicle for technologies such as fly-control larvicides, as well as ionophores to promote growth and to address health issues.

A trial conducted recently at a large Arizona calf ranch evaluated the difference between the performance of 120 calves fed 2.1 quarts of regular pasteurized waste milk three times a day and 120 calves fed the same amount of pasteurized waste milk supplemented with 9 ounces of pasteurized milk balancer per day.

The researchers found that the calves fed the milk ration enhanced with pasteurized milk balancer gained 17 percent more from birth to weaning (57 pounds versus 48 pounds).

This additional growth for the fortified group came in key structural areas – an 8 percent improvement in hip height, 7 percent longer body length and 35 percent larger heart girth.

How to use a pasteurized milk balancer

To incorporate pasteurized milk balancer in your liquid feeding plan for calves:

  1. Assess a baseline nutritive content of your waste milk by sending it to a milk-testing laboratory. This will help to determine the level of fortification needed.
  2. Conduct ongoing, on-farm monitoring of changes in total solids levels.
  3. Supplement pasteurized waste milk with pasteurized waste milk balancer designed specifically for blending. Add the balancer powder to 110 to 120ºF pasteurized milk and mix thoroughly.
  4. Utilize ration balancer software to determine the correct blend of milk to balancer. Your product supplier can assist with this process. Balancer levels will vary depending on the nutritive content of the milk, but a common target is to balance to 15 percent solids.
  5. Regularly evaluate nutrient levels of waste milk via both laboratory and on-farm monitoring to make necessary adjustments in pasteurized milk balancer levels. The amount of variability found in your milk samples will dictate how frequently samples need to be evaluated.

Creating a milk diet for calves should be viewed as creating a “liquid TMR.” Just as you carefully build, assess and adjust the TMR for your lactating herd, you should give equal attention to your calves’ milk rations.

Many herds feed newborn calves milk replacer to ensure with certainty that the animals are receiving consistent, optimal nutrition.

This ration precision can be continued when calves are transitioned to pasteurized waste milk by normalizing the milk ration with a pasteurized milk balancer. PD

Tom Earleywine has a Ph.D. in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is director of nutritional services for Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products.

PHOTO: Because most dairies generate enough waste milk to feed 30 to 60 percent of their calves, it is important that its nutritional content regularly and adequately addresses the needs of growing youngstock. Photo courtesy of Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products.

Tom Earleywine
  • Tom Earleywine

  • Director of Nutritional Services
  • Land O'Lakes
  • Email Tom Earleywine