Wilbert Swinkels: ‘Just one splash of manure can infect a calf

Hygiene around the youngest calves comes in four steps: the calving pen, the colostrum, the single-pen and the farmer. Wilbert Swinkels is a young animal ­specialist at Agrifirm and cannot emphasise often enough that hygiene is important to prevent diseases such as calf diarrhoea.

Clean calving

It starts even before the calf is born. ‘Make sure that the cow’s hindquarters are clean as well as a thick layer of straw in the calving pen. Just one splash of manure can infect a calf,’ he points out. After the birth and disinfection of the navel, the first colostrum arrives. ‘That too must be hygienically extracted. Is the mini milker clean? And the cow’s udder? You don’t want to bring pathogens into the calf with the colostrum too.’ highlights Wilbert.

Clean and disinfected

In hygienic rearing, the single stalls are cleaned and disinfected. ‘Put the box in sunlight for a few days, that is the best disinfection.’ Clean the buckets after feeding, he adds. ‘While doing so, also pay attention to milk residue inside the teat. Hang the bucket away upside down.’ When the calves go into the group pen after 14 days, hygiene is important there too. ‘Do the 30-second test,’ Wilbert mentions. ‘Get down on your knees in the pen for 30 seconds. The overalls should be clean and dry.’ If you have the straw within reach, it is easy to scatter. ‘If you do, watch for signs of any diarrhoea in the room and along the wall.’

Work as clean and hygienically as possible

Besides hygiene around the calf and environment, it is also important to be as hygienic as possible yourself. ‘Put on different overalls and footwear when you go to the calves and also do pest and fly control, this will prevent pathogens being transferred from one calf to another.’

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