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Cleanliness is important: Tips on what’s working for us with our new calf barn and automatic feeder

Christina Winch for Progressive Dairyman Published on 02 November 2016

There are challenges every dairy faces. Oftentimes you problem solve, think you have the problem fixed, only to discover a new problem.

Over the past decade, one of the focuses on our farm has been with the calves. Our goals were to decrease respiratory problems, decrease abdominal bloat issues, increase rate of gains and increase milk production when they became cows. In order to accomplish these goals, we built a new calf barn in 2014, adjusted our feeding protocol and focused on cleanliness. Yes, focused on cleanliness.

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Our old protocol for bottle washing was to scrub them with pipeline detergent and sanitize them with pipeline bleach. This was also our protocol for washing feeders, cleaning counters, whisks or anything associated with the calves. After attending workshops and talking with experts, we quickly learned that we needed to do much more than that. With the installation of an automatic calf feeder, we encountered new cleaning issues. From day one we were told to make sure that we were circuit cleaning every day, washing nipples and keeping hoses cleaned.

Over the past couple of years, we have developed a cleaning and sanitation protocol that seems to be working. We know it is working because our calf nutritionist uses an ATP meter to test for proteins that are left behind after cleaning. The lower the number, the better. If you have high numbers, that means things are not getting clean. I want to share with you what we are doing that is working. These ideas might just work for you as well.

  • Use 130ºF water for washing.
  • Scrub everything with pipeline detergent, including bottles, nipples and nipple stations.
  • Bottles and nipples are rinsed in pipeline bleach and allowed to air dry.
  • Feeding area around feeding stations is curbed to allow for cleaning daily.
  • Feeding stations are hosed down and foamed cleaned with AgroChem foaming alkaline cleaner daily in the morning.
  • Feeding stations are cleaned with AgroChem high-foaming acid cleaner once a week.
  • Use Aspen Chemicals LoMax made by Ecolab as the detergent in the automatic feeder for the clean-in-place (CIP) cleaning daily of the feeder.
  • Feeding stations are scrubbed every evening with pipeline detergent.
  • Use Oxymer sanitation spray on everything right before it goes to the calves. It does not need to be rinsed off.
    • Bottles and nipples are sprayed before filling with milk.
    • Bucket and whisk are sprayed before mixing.
    • Nipples and feeding stations are sprayed after each cleaning.
  • Barn and calf pens are foam cleaned and acid cleaned between each group of calves.
  • Pens are sprayed with Oxymer when they are set up.
  • Test hoses, nipples, buckets and bottles at least once a month with the ATP meter.

These cleaning procedures have helped us meet our goals. We are extremely happy with our calves and how they are growing. The number one thing people ask us about is our cleaning protocol. If you have questions about our protocol, feel free to email us. I hope that by sharing it with fellow dairy producers, I can help you reach your goals too.  end mark

Christina Winch is a dairy farmer in Fennimore, Wisconsin. Email Christina Winch.

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