Many dairy producers have established regular cleaning schedules for the milking herd’s waterers, but a recent study from the University of California suggests you should set a regular cleaning schedule for calf waterers as well.

Water samples were taken from 85 different calf water troughs on 48 California dairies and tested for E. coli O157 and Salmonella. Three samples from three different dairies were positive for E. coli 0157, says John Kirk, extension veterinarian at the University of California. In addition, three different dairies had samples test positive for Salmonella in the calf waterers.

Even though E. coli O157 does not result in clinical disease for dairy animals, it can be carried through the food chain in cull cows, says Kirk, and that does pose a threat to human safety. In the U.S., approximately 2.8 of every 100,000 people get sick with E. coli O157 per year. And, Salmonella can be both harmful to the health of your calves and the employees who work with them. Approximately 12.4 of every 100,000 people get sick with Salmonella each year.

To limit disease, producers should give calf troughs the same attention as cow troughs — clean them once a week.