Navel dipped – check; colostrum fed – check; hut or pen cleaned between calves and feeding equipment sanitized between feedings – check and check. Calf raisers take many steps to prevent their calves from getting sick. But despite taking these preventative measures, one of the first frustrations heard when doing a walk-through of calf facilities is that calves are still getting scours between 7 to 10 days of age. This is according to Devin Hyde, a calf and heifer specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition located in Minnesota.
Having sick calves despite having taken all of the proper actions to support calf health can be one of the most discouraging challenges that calf raisers must overcome, says Hyde.
She notes that it is not uncommon for calf raisers to overlook their calf facility cleaning and sanitation protocols, which are a vital part on any dairy.
The incidence of scours is typically caused by a bacterial overload on the feeding equipment and/or the environment. Calf raisers should address their equipment sanitizing protocols to limit bacterial exposure as much as possible. Skipping these steps can allow disease and illness to quickly spread from calf to calf, negatively affecting the overall health and profitability of the herd.
Hyde recommends calf audits be done frequently to evaluate what the cleaning procedures are and what type of disinfectant is being used.
Hyde urges calf raisers to use these six easy steps developed by Dr. Don Sockett, University of Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostics Lab to make sure they are getting the job done.
- Rinse using warm, 90° F water.
- Soak in hot water, greater than 130° F, with 1 percent chlorinated alkaline detergent.
- Wash water should be greater than 145° F. Using a brush will help eliminate any other residue.
- Rinse using a cold water solution that contains 50 parts per million of chlorine dioxide.
- Dry by letting the equipment drain and dry completely before re-use to prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Final preparation of equipment should include spraying the inside and outside of calf equipment with a 50 parts per million chlorine dioxide solution two or less hours before the next use.
Hyde also emphasizes that cleaning shouldn’t stop with milk feeding equipment. Calf starter and water buckets should also be cleaned on a regular basis. Milk bottles and buckets should be cleaned daily, while calf starter and water buckets should be cleaned and disinfected between calves (at a minimum).
Milking parlor managers focus on similar sanitation practices every single day, multiple times per day. As calves are the future of dairy herds, the same mentality should be in place for calf facilities. Doing so, can help overcome calf health challenges and allow producers to focus on keeping calves healthy and growing so that they can reach their full potential.