Sanitation and Snow

Makaila Klejeski, Calf & Heifer Specialist,
Purina Animal Nutrition (507) 676-2316
It’s beginning to look a lot like winter. While the temperatures decrease, so does our patience. Hutches are still a very common source of calf housing; with that said, imagine standing in the dark with negative temperatures numbing your fingers and toes. Let’s top that off with bottle feeding a Swiss calf that should’ve been drinking from a pail 2 weeks ago (no surprise there).

Even the best employees and managers have the tendency to cut a few corners when it comes to calf chores in the winter. Per my last article on preparing calves for winter, we understand that calves need the most attention in the colder months to keep them healthy
and productive.

Sanitation is a great way to prevent underlying causes of disease throughout the calves. We’ll start from the beginning:
Colostrum quality. This has been preached to us repeatedly, however it is often overlooked and very critical to the calf’s
life. There is a lot that contributes to colostrum quality such as pre-fresh/maternity protocols and nutrition, cleanliness and quantity. Colostrum should be collected in a container free of foreign material and bacteria. It should be handled correctly as well, meaning it should be fed right away or stored properly (freeze until ready to use). Leaving the pail sit in the milk house until the next feeding will cause bacteria to grow tremendously, defeating the purpose of feeding colostrum. In my opinion this is the most important phase when it comes to calf health.

Now that your calves are in individual pens/hutches or participating in group housing, how do you stop the transfer from
calf to calf? Or even human to calf? I think of this as a daycare or an elementary classroom. How can we keep them from getting sick? A few ideas that may take a few extra minutes but could save you a headache in the end, are:
– Clean buckets after every feeding
– Clean pens after every calf (individual pens/hutches)
– Deep clean pasteurizers, milk taxi, etc.
– Use chlorine dioxide to sanitize equipment that encounters the calves
* Using bleach or similar products isn’t as effective
– Do a sanitation audit (we would love to help!)
* ATP meter – provides us with bacteria levels on hard surfaces
– Buy new brushes to wash bottles/buckets – they are dirtier than you think
– Buy new nipples to bottles – old, cracked nipples are a great place for bacteria to hang out

Take some biosecurity precautions as well that cost little to none, such as wearing boot covers near the calf facilities. It can be hard to identify where any disease outbreak started, but you can save yourself some money with a decrease in antibiotics along with the stress of dealing with sick calves. The Purina Animal Nutrition and All American Co-op feed team offers many services to help keep your calves happy and healthy. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you have. Happy Holidays and happy cleaning!

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