September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
He finally went from looking, to making a purchase in April 2012 when he bought one for his calves on his 400-cow dairy in Dodge County near Mantorville, Minn. The new device uses ultraviolet light to pasteurize the milk instead of heating it to higher temperatures.
"Ultraviolet light is the newest technology in milk pasteurizers, so that's what I wanted," Reber said.
Before installing the pasteurizer, Reber was using milk replacer to feed his calves. He usually has about 30 at a time on milk.
"I think calves do much better on natural milk," Reber said. "Before, when we would switch from the colostrum to the milk replacer, the calves' stomachs would have to get used to it," Reber said.
Reber likes the consistency of the using waste milk.
"They're on milk from day one," Reber said.
Although Reber's calf death rate before the pasteurizer was less than one percent, it has been even lower since using the new technology. Reber said he has only had one calf mortality since April. Calf health has also improved.
"We didn't have a lot of trouble before, but I think they're even healthier now," Reber said about his calves. "Now when they get scours, they work through it in a day or two instead of a few days."
Milk from treated cows and high somatic cell count cows is poured into the pasteurizer and used to feed the calves two times a day - at 5:30 a.m and 7 p.m. Reber said there is usually about one or two treated cows, and then they take the milk from about eight cows with the highest somatic cell counts.
"It helps with the premium for our somatic cell count," Reber said about having a pasteurizer. "Now it's easier with higher somatic cell count cows. I don't feel so bad pulling them from the tank."
It takes about 75 minutes to pasteurize 40 gallons of milk. The milk passes through the light, and then it is held at 114 degrees until it is fed.
"I think it's better not to heat the milk up so much. I want to keep the milk at about the body temperature of the calf," Reber said.
Once it's done employee Rigo Quintero, feeds all the calves.
When the feeding is done, cleaning the system consists of flipping a switch and pushing a button for a rinse, wash and acid rinse cycle.
"It's just like a pipeline cleaner. It's just so simple and easy. I like that it cleans itself," Reber said.
About 1.5 years ago, Reber hired Quintero as his calf care specialist. Before that, the employees who did the milking also took care of the calves.
"Now everyone can focus on one thing - Rigo on the calves and the milkers on milking the cows," Reber said.
Having the pasteurizer is another way to keep feeding consistent.
"All he has to do is fill the pails. He doesn't have to mix the milk replacer," Reber said.
No mixing also means it saves Quintero time feeding calves.
Reber's daughter, Taylor (18), also helps take care of the calves in the afternoon between feedings. She gives them extra bedding, and watches for any signs of illness.
"She's got a good eye for finding sick calves," Reber said.
The calves are housed in a 48- by 110-foot calf barn Reber built in 2001. It is only used for calves up to two months, and each of them have their own individual pen made of hog panels.
"It works pretty well," Reber said.
The idea to purchase a pasteurizer first came about from Reber's dad, NAME, who still helps on the farm when needed.
"Dad thought we should look into something else because we were spending a lot on milk replacer each month," Reber said.
Before purchasing the pasteurizer, Reber looked around at other farms that had them, researched different makes and models, and consulted with Quintero about what he thought they should use.
Now that the Reber has it, the pasteurizer has been an essential tool on the farm and is more cost efficient. He no longer spends $3,000 on milk replacer, and the pasteurizer paid for itself within eight months.
Another incentive to buy a pasteurizer came from their energy company. Reber received an energy rebate, which amounted to about 30 percent of the cost.
"For the newer technology, the energy company thought it was a good investment," Reber said.
The UV pasteurizer uses less energy and less water than other pasteurizers, Reber said.
Although his pasteurizer cost more than others, Reber was happy with the outcome.
"I'd rather spend money on ease and technology here than make more work for us," Reber said. "I'm glad we made the investment."
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