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Cleanliness and a well-prepared shed central to successful calving

Curtin's Farm in Moorepark will calve down 144 cows this spring.

Farm manager Aidan Brennan uses the following work routine around calving time. Cows are moved to a three-bay, straw-bedded shed within 24 hours of calving. All calvings take place in this shed if possible.

This shed also has two crush gates, which allow for easy handling of cows that may need assistance at calving. Straw is added every day and the whole shed is cleaned and disinfected every 10 days. This shed is located right beside the cubicle house, which makes the moving of cows easier.

Aidan is well aware of the importance of excellent hygiene standards during calving time.

At the entrance to the calving shed is a table which contains essential pieces of equipment -- a box of arm-length gloves, a box of hand gloves, paper towels, a dispenser with soap detergent, lubrication and a tap with running water.

Equipment such as the calving ropes and jack are left immersed in a gallon of water, which has been treated with Dettol. A cover is placed over it to ensure no dirt gets in.

As soon as the calf is born, the navel cord is sprayed with an iodine solution. This is absolutely critical as the cord is the only part of the animal not covered with a protective layer of skin and it is therefore susceptible to entry of infection. Applying iodine will immediately kill any bacteria that may have already become established.

Also at the entrance to the calving shed is a footbath, with a gallon of disinfectant beside it. As one can imagine, dipping one's feet into disinfectant is absolutely critical in helping to prevent carrying any bacteria, parasites or viruses into the environment of newborn calf.

Hygiene is critical to breaking the disease/animal link at this time and, it is an area often forgotten about when the rush is on to give the cow assistance to calve without difficulty.

A second set of calving ropes should be bought and placed beside the rest of the items needed for calving cows.

Instead of a table beside the calving pen, I know of one farmer who bolted a section of box gutter to the wall. This holds most of the items previously mentioned and it is neat and tidy.

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