At least that’s what one calf ranch operator from Texas learned recently. Calves were becoming increasingly ill with no explanation. All the usual suspects were checked: housing, bedding, feeding and health protocols. This rancher was running out of leads.
That’s when our team was called in to observe the CIP system for clues. It’s the kind of detective work we do every day on dairies or wherever CIP systems operate. You never know when even the most reliable system is to blame for health, safety or performance problems.
This particular 5,000-calf ranch utilized a single-pass calf pasteurizer.
First we monitored how the system worked as well as the cleaning products and processes the ranch staff were using. There were several interesting observations:
Observation #1: The calf feeding team was using a chlorinated detergent to clean the pasteurizer. The use of chlorine in such products actually burns and fuses protein to the metal within the pasteurizer, and the protein then builds up and gets harder and harder to clean.
This residue then traps bacteria and, eventually, the pasteurizer never really gets cleaned, at which point it’s not truly pasteurizing.
Recommended changes: First, we suggested a very high-alkaline wash to remove the build-up inside the pasteurizer.
Typically, we do not like to make that recommendation because a high-alkaline wash can wear down parts; however, in this case, it was needed due to the heavy build-up that had occurred.
Next, we recommended using a highly concentrated detergent instead of a chlorinated detergent for regular cleaning of the system. (See Tables 1 and 2 for our recommended guidelines.)
By the way, the rancher did provide an alibi for using chlorinated detergent: “It was recommended by the team that installed the pasteurizer,” he said.
While there are some very fine equipment providers and installers, it’s best to consult with CIP experts who understand the chemistry of cleaning products on the market and specialize in matching those products to the system and characteristics of your setup.
Observation #2: The ranch staff was using a non-chlorinated detergent to clean the calf bottles and nipples. In this situation, calf raisers need to use chlorine to disinfect plastic and rubber parts. Without chlorine, bacteria are allowed to grow.
Remember, non-chlorinated detergent for metal; chlorinated detergent for plastic and rubber.
Recommended change: We recommended a chlorinated detergent and helped the staff establish new protocols for soaking and manual cleaning. (See Tables 3 and 4) for our recommended guidelines.)
Within weeks of making recommendations, calf mortality rates dropped tremendously and the rancher was extremely pleased to find illnesses and health care costs decreased across the operation.
When it comes to the health of the youngest and most vulnerable citizens on a dairy farm, survey everything in their environment. Even the most unusual suspects – the CIP system, its products and processes – need to be rounded up and cleared of any culpability.
Be vigilant. The best CIP detectives are always in relentless pursuit of the healthiest, safest environment for everyone in the food system, from the calf to the end consumer. Let us know if you have a CIP challenge – we’re ready for the next case. PD