Developing a criteria to select colostrum samples of poor quality

2015 Annual Report for FNE15-830

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2015: $4,644.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Sarah Hazelton
Hazel-Rod Farm

Developing a criteria to select colostrum samples of poor quality


      This project has two objectives. The first objective was to assess the ease of use and accuracy of the colostrometer and Brix refractometer in assessing colostrum quality on farm. The second objective was to develop a selection criteria to identify animals that are at risk of producing poor quality colostrum. The overall goal of this project is to make farmers more aware of the importance of testing colostrum quality and of the availability of on-farm tools to measure colostrum quality.

            To date, Sarah Hazelton (farmer) has collected and analyzed all of the 40 milk samples on farm.   A Mansfield University student has run the ELISA analysis on half of the samples. The county extension agent, Craig Williams, has helped us identify our first outreach event, set for March of 2016.

Objectives/Performance Targets

            In spring 2015 through fall 2015, I measured the colostrum quality of 40 colostrum samples, with both the colostrometer and Brix refractometer. Readings were recorded for each sample, in addition to color and consistency of the colostrum, parity of the dam, average milk production and somatic cell count of previous lactation, any calving difficulties and sex of the calf. Triplicate 1.5 ml samples were frozen for future analysis. Half of the samples have been analyzed by ELISA for IgG concentration. Statistical analysis and outreach remain to be completed.


            A visual appraisal of the results indicate that parameters commonly used by farmers to assess colostrum quality, such as color, consistency, milk production of dam and sex of calf, are not reliable indicators of colostrum quality. It would appear as if available energy in the dam’s ration prior to calving may have an influence on colostrum quality. Further correlations will be assessed via statistical analysis.

As far as the ease of use of the colostrometer and refractometer, both instruments were very simple to use on-farm. Although the colostrometer values are easier to interpret directly, the refractometer is more durable for on-farm usage. The ELISA data has proved to be quite variable and difficult to interpret, possibly due to machinery failure or lack of sensitivity of the chosen kit. The ELISA values will most likely not yield useful data.



J. Craig Williams
Penn State Dairy Team, Tioga Co.
Penn State Extension
118 Main St.
Wellsboro, PA 16901
Office Phone: 5704390235
Dr. Marsha Rosanelli
Troy Veterinary Clinic
15579 Rt. 14
Troy, PA 16947
Office Phone: 5706733181