5 tips to keep calves healthy
Bethany Fisher and Christie Underwood, calf and heifer specialists with Purina Animal Nutrition, provide these tips to keep calves healthy.
1. Dip navels immediately after birth
Navel dipping equipment should be sanitized on a regular basis. “The navel acts as a highway to the bloodstream,” says Fisher. Ask these questions:
· How often is the disinfectant changed?
· Are navel dippers being regularly cleaned?
· If navels are being clipped, are you sanitizing the scissors between uses?
2. Clean and sanitize colostrum feeding equipment
Colostrum management is one of the most important areas of focus when it comes to cleanliness. “If basic sanitation efforts are not adhered to, un-sanitized esophageal feeders, bottles and nipples can serve as direct pathways for undesirable bacteria into the calf,” Underwood says.
Any crack, crease, or crevice can harbor harmful bacteria despite even the most thorough of cleaning practices. Evaluate the cleanliness of calf feeding equipment with these questions:
· Is feeding equipment cleaned according to protocol?
· Is feeding equipment allowed to completely dry between uses?
· Are there scratches in plastic or small spaces that are hard to clean?
· Are bottles greasy?
· Are feeding nipples old and cracked?
· Is the water tank/trailer/dispenser being cleaned on a regular basis?
3. Evaluate cleanliness of maternity pen and transport equipment
Maternity pens, trailers and calf carts can also harbor pathogens that can infect calves before they enter their calf hutch/pen. Ask these questions before calves are moved to individual hutches/pens:
· What kinds of bedding materials are being used in maternity pens?
· How often are maternity pens cleaned?
· How soon after birth are newborn calves transported?
· How often is transport equipment being sanitized?
4. Sanitize calf hutches
A calf facility that is not properly sanitized can allow bacteria to be carried on to the next cycle of calves. “It is vital that calf hutches and pens are thoroughly cleaned between calves, especially if the previous calf became sick,” says Fisher. Make sure to sanitize both the walls of the calf housing unit and the ground or area beneath the calf unit.
5. Evaluate biosecurity policies
Employees and visitors can be unsuspecting sources of calf disease. Anyone who works directly with animals should use latex gloves; this can limit the transfer of harmful pathogens. Shoes and clothes must also be clean and disinfected before and after people enter a calf facility to minimize the spread of bacteria.
Bacteria can lurk in the most unexpected places and can quickly be transferred from one animal to the next. Having sanitation protocols in place can help you raise healthy calves.
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