A calf exhibiting “normal” posture.
A calf exhibiting “normal” posture.

This Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association (DCHA)

Colostrum and calories are key elements in successful calf management. However, the physical environment is equally important to the overall well-being of a calf.

Like many birthing situations, the calving area and equipment should be clean. Similarly, when a calf is born, it should have a dry, clean, well-bedded and draft-free environment.

Unhygienic calving areas stimulate disease-causing organisms such as E. coli, Salmonella and Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, also known as Johne's disease. Calves exposed to unsanitary conditions may develop health problems resulting in higher death rates.

Here are some hygiene and sanitation principles to help keep calves healthy and free of disease:

  • House calves in individual hutches or pens with bedding that is deep enough to cover the calf's legs when resting.
  • Clean, wash, disinfect and dry hutches between calves.
  • Wash equipment after every use including bleach in the wash water. Soak with bleach and hot water occasionally to back up an effective washing program.
    • The proper soaking dilution of household bleach is about 2.7 cups in 5 gallons of water.
  • If you cannot provide individual pails for each calf, wash and sanitize shared pails for each calf and keep them separate when not in use.
    • Use of pails from one to another increases the choances f transmitting pathogens.
  • Discard any refused calf starter, milk replacer and water.
  • Prevent manure contamination of feed and feeding areas.
    • Calves should not be in contact with manure from adult animals.

According to the DCHA Gold Standards III, shelter is a critical welfare component for dairy animals of all ages. You are giving your calf the best start in life by providing a clean calving area.

Here is some additional information on cleanliness