The deaths as a result of poor hygiene are mainly caused by calf scour. Whilst some scour in calves is the result of brand new pathogens, the main cause of scour is pathogens already on the farm being present in high enough quantities to cause infection.

It is surprising how long pathogens can survive for in the environment as well as in water. Looking at these common pathogen survival times, it highlights how important it is to have a cleaning protocol in place. Take calf hoppers for example, how frequently are you steam cleaning and disinfecting these? Ideally you will be giving them a good wash every day with a deep clean every week to reduce the pathogen survival – salmonella can survive up to 3 months, if you aren’t following a regular protocol then there is a chance of spreading it round your calves.

Thankfully, there is a way we can test how effective our cleaning protocols are and this is done by a 3M machine, which can detect the presence of biological contaminants in a sample. We performed a spot test, using our 3M Machine, on one of our farms to determine the cleanliness of routine equipment used around calves.

The equipment we tested appeared clean to the naked eye but as you can see, the results were far above the target values…

Table 1: Pathogen survival times

Table 2: On farm hygiene test

Once again, we used our 3M machine to investigate the importance of effective cleaning. The results highlighted that using cold water to clean equipment is not sufficient. The use of hot soapy water was more effective at reducing residues. An appropriate disinfectant should also be used to kill off persistent pathogens such as cocci and cryptosporidium. If you would like to look into the effectiveness of your cleaning regime, ask your vet about our portable 3M machine!

What solutions are there to make calf areas easier to clean and reduce infection risk? For example, is there anything you could change to make the area more cleanable?

  • Render walls to fill in cracks.
  • Whitewash/wall paints.
  • Get rid of any buckets/teats with cracks/splits in them.

Another few tips to help with cleanliness in general:

  • Make sure you have a measuring jug on hand to correctly measure out your disinfectant.
  • Identify the bugs present on your farm and use a disinfectant that targets these bugs.
  • Allow sufficient time for pens to dry before re-bedding.
  • Ensure milk machines are cleaning correctly between calves! This is a big one!

In addition to the calf pens, the calving area is a huge source of infection for newborn calves, so regular cleaning and disinfection are required. If you’re unable to do this, consider snatch calving to reduce exposure to these pathogens. Additionally, the use of disinfectant foot dips outside the calving area and near any sick calves can reduce the spread of disease.

Getting cleanliness right can solve a lot of problems – speak to your vet or vet tech if you want a calf area review. Fresh eyes!