Hygiene: rest, cleanliness and regularity

Calves are born without antibodies. Boosting their resistance to allow them to build up a strong immune system and make them less susceptible to diarrhoea and disease is a question of good nutrition and care. Practically everything you do as a dairy farmer in rearing the youngest generation, is based on hygiene.

Umbilical disinfection: essential!

Before the calf enters the world, the dairy farmer must take measures to guarantee a good start. The calving pen is clean, with a thick layer of straw waiting to allow the calf to be born in the cleanest possible environment. Also remember to clean the rear end of the cow, suggested Wilbert Swinkels, young cattle ­specialist at Agrifirm. ‘A single spatter of manure is enough to infect a calf, resulting in diarrhoea.’
Following the birth, it is essential to disinfect the umbilicus of the calf to prevent it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Disinfection also ensures that the umbilical cord dries out faster. Young cattle ­specialist Johan Verdaasdonk often sees in practice that disinfection of the umbilicus can be forgotten. ‘Effectively the umbilicus is an open wound; it is essential that it be disinfected to prevent the risk of peritonitis.’ He even recommends repeating the disinfection of the umbilicus after 12 to 18 hours, to accelerate the drying out process. During the examination several days after birth, the umbilicus should be soft and flexible.

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