Calves

Background

How to prepare for the next calving season in 3 days

Summer is the perfect time to take control, with emptying youngstock facilities during the summer months, dairy producers should take the opportunity to disinfect pens in preparation for the next calving season.

It is well known that calves need special attention in order to build their immunity in the first days of life. While there are many ways to assist in growing a well-performing and resilient animal, hygiene is top of the list in keep calves healthy.

According to veterinary consultant, Dr Tommy Heffernan, in a recent press release, “The low level of immunity in calves makes them very vulnerable to disease, especially in the first days and weeks of life. While it is important to practise good hygiene during this period and support immunity development, lingering pathogens from the previous calving season will further increase the infection risk, making it harder to keep calves healthy.”

Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

Dr Heffernan adds that pre-calving hygiene isn’t a complicated task and can be taken care of in 3 days. See below the sanitation plan that will have facilities ready in no time:

Day 1: It is important to remove all debris, manure, old bedding, etc. from the pens. A power washer can get rid of any visible residues – focus on wall and ground crevices since they capture faeces.

Day 2: Steam clean the entire facility to sterilise the environment and remove any stuck residues.

Day 3: Soak the shed with the appropriate disinfectant according to directions and let it sit dry until calving season. “Look at your farm like a production line from where the calf will first be to where it will end up. Everything in that production line from feeding equipment and calving pens to gates needs to be cleaned,” he adds.

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Effective disinfectant and pathogens on-farm

Think about which equipment and facilities are being sanitised and what is being used. It is imperative that the right disinfectant must be used in the correct dilution rate, says Alison Clark, dairy hygiene specialist for Progiene. To determine which pathogens disinfectant needs to be selected for, Clark recommends referring back to any records from the previous calving season that show scour test kit or lab results.

“Keeping track of what pathogens are present on farm will help to choose the appropriate disinfectant. A great way to do this is through the use of Progiene calf scour test kits throughout the calving season. Within 10 minutes of collecting fresh manure, the test can detect rotavirus, coronavirus, E. coli and cryptosporidium parvum in calves,” says Clark.

After removing all debris and steam cleaning, Dr Tommy Heffernan advises calf pens to then be sprayed with an approved disinfectant. Photo: Progiene
After removing all debris and steam cleaning, Dr Tommy Heffernan advises calf pens to then be sprayed with an approved disinfectant. Photo: Progiene

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“The majority of farms have scour-causing pathogens, which are highly transmissible and pathogens like cryptosporidium can survive for months in the right conditions,” concludes Dr Heffernan. “Taking a few days to properly clean out and disinfect pens and equipment ahead of the calving season will be hugely beneficial to support the health and performance of those calves.”

It is vital to pick disinfectants based on active ingredients that are approved to kill specific pathogens. 

For more information, visit Progiene

Also see DEFRA