Calves' immune systems are undeveloped at birth, therefore, a clean environment is crucial for effective calf rearing. The first few weeks of a calf's life is critical and associated with the highest mortality due to enteric and respiratory diseases. Putting a good calf management program in place can help protect the health of calves by proactively lowering the burden of harmful bacteria and breaking the chain of infection. The basic requirements for calf housing include that it be dry, draughts-free, clean, and cleanable.
Maternity pens, calf housing, and calf feeding equipment or utensils are the three main pathogen exposure points for newborn and pre-weaned calves.
Maternity pens must be clean, dry, well-lit, insulated, and have sufficient ventilation without any draughts to aid with disease management, comfort, and footing. The pen must maintain a low pathogen exposure. A crucial hygiene step is to remove the calf from the dam soon after delivery; doing so will minimize the calf's exposure to germs and after each calving, maternity pens should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Proper maternity pen cleaning and disinfection, limiting the calf's time in unsanitary calving pens, providing appropriate early intake of high-quality colostrum, and navel antisepsis are the mainstays of navel-ill prevention. A 10% iodine tincture should be applied to the calf's navel cord at birth, and ideally again one to two hours later. Iodine can be used to help dry up the umbilical cord and has antimicrobial properties.
Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting calf housing is one of the best things you can do to keep calves healthy. Housing should be kept clean and dry to minimize pathogen survival and growth. Hutches and pens need to be cleaned and disinfected every time a calf leaves and a new calf moves in.
Calf health depends on proper bedding management, and calf comfort is significantly influenced by the material used in bedding. Bedding material may need to change based on various circumstances, and need to be clean, dry, comfortable, and the right depth.
Equipment for feeding and weaning should be cleaned with hot water and detergent, disinfected and always let to dry fully. waterers should be cleaned once a week, however this should be increased during disease outbreaks or when they are visibly dirty. equipment for feeding animals made from plastic and rubber must be inspected for microbe-holding scratches. replace any bottles or buckets with cuts, grooves, or scratches on the interior.
Fresh air is essential and it's important to avoid draughts at calf level. Fresh air should always be available to avoid respiratory and other illnesses. An effective ventilation system will offer a constant flow of air exchange to eliminate harmful odors, moisture, and heat, as well as to reduce dust and microorganisms from the environment.