The importance of good hygiene and biosecurity measures cannot be underestimated in the calf shed during the calving period.
To help protect these animals during this period, farmers need to develop and maintain protocols to prevent the spread of disease.
Many dairy farmers will have attended that Animal Health Ireland (AHI) calfcare events in recent weeks.
During these events, areas including potential infection pressure, and controlling the access into the calf shed were highlighted.
Keeping infection pressure low in the calf shed is an important way of preventing calves from becoming sick and introducing new infections to the shed.
Young calves are highly susceptible to picking up infections.
Regular cleaning out of the shed is a vital step in keeping infection pressure low, i.e., removing used straw.
You also need to focus on the feeding equipment – feeders need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
Ideally, there would be no sharing of feeders between pens to help stop the potential transfer of infections from one pen to another.
Calves that have been identified as sick need to be isolated to prevent the spread of infection within the pen or shed.
After you treat sick calves, it is important that you disinfect you wellies and hands before making contact with the healthy calves.
You should have a footbath at the entrance of the shed and access to the shed needs to be controlled.
An interesting point that was raised during the AHI events, was having a spare pair of disinfected wellies for a vet or other people entering the farm.
Vets do a lot to help stop the spread of infection or disease from farm-to-farm, but there is always a risk.
Having a pair of wellies and some wet gear for your vet could potential help to stop harmful bacteria from being introduced to your farm.
Many farmers are now also selling calves from the farm, but where are you selling these calves from?
Any calves that are for sale should be in the pen closest to the door, or in a pen/shed that is away from the other calves in the shed.
Someone coming onto your farm to purchase calves poses a risk to introducing a disease or infection, so preventing them from having access to your calves that are not for sale, helps to protect them from potential illness.