Bacteria and viruses are present in large numbers on all farms, and the diseases they and other germs cause are common and costly.

Without proper cleaning and disinfection, the germ-load will increase in calf buildings – and on equipment – with disease easily spread from calf-to-calf by contamination in their environment.

A good cleaning and disinfection routine of all the calf-feeding equipment, pens and beds will reduce the infectious burden on the farm.

Washing of feeding equipment is a subject which is often overlooked. Incorrect cleaning practices could be cultivating the perfect environment for disease-causing bacteria to survive in – ready to contaminate milk or milk replacer at every feeding time, leading to persistent calf scours, bloat and pneumonia.

In the video (below), Volac’s Rebecca O’Sullivan talks us through the correct cleaning practice to ensure that feeding equipment remains bacteria-free, resulting in a healthier calf.

“When you look at most feeding systems, a lot of calves are drinking from the same bucket or teat system, so it’s important to stop the build up of bacteria.

“When you think that there are a few different age groups of calves coming in, and when you look at bacteria, it multiplies every 20 minutes, so the more bacteria that enters a calf’s body, the more health issues you will have,” Rebecca explained.

The cleaning practice

“The first thing to do is, once you are finished feeding calves, the equipment should be cleaned straight away; it should be part of your process,” Rebecca notes.

“So, rinse equipment with 38º water. Then, soak at 55º with a detergent such as peracetic acid. Once finished, scrub and rinse with hot water at 55º again and rinse with cooler water (add a sanitiser) and hang to dry.

Incorrect cleaning practices can lead to the development of what is called a ‘biofilm’. A biofilm is an invisible paper of protein and fat residue that builds up on equipment and surfaces that are not properly cleaned.

Every time a piece of equipment is used, resident bacteria release from the biofilm and contaminate the milk or milk replacer, increasing the levels of bacteria which the calf is exposed to.

“If that film keeps building, it’s very hard to clean; the only way is to use hot, hot water and a detergent,” Rebecca said.

Part 1: Video series: The complete guide to buying and rearing dairy-beef calves
Part 2: Video: What can I pay for dairy-beef calves?
Part 3: Video: What questions should I ask dairy farmers when sourcing dairy-beef calves?
Part 4: The importance of choosing dairy calves with the right genetics for beef production
Part 5: Video: How to examine the calf prior to purchase for dairy-beef systems