Using "hot" water to wash plastic calf feeding utensils can add to the spread of infection by welding the residue on to the plastic, said UCD health group vet, Catherine Carty.
In farms where there is a problem the feeding utensils can be a real issue.
"Rinse the buckets first in a warm water, not more than 30 degrees or otherwise the milk residue becomes welded to the plastic and that is a lovely place for the bacteria to live and stay there," says the bovine health management specialist.
"If the residue gets welded to the plastic it can be very hard to get it off," she said.
"After the first rinse they can be soaked in an alkaline detergent with really hot water of 50 degrees plus and get out the brushes and scrub it," she added.
The calving pen is the first place that the calf is exposed to infection after being born.
"Disinfecting at the end of the year is extremely important for the calving pens and calf housing because the risk of infection can be carried over from one year to the next and equally likely to cause infection down the line, so terminal disinfection is very important and can make a difference from one year to the next," she said. She warned that dung around the pen is a carrier of bugs and will prevent disinfectants from working.
It is important to take advice from the herd vet or farm adviser on the best type of disinfectant to use, because some of the commonly used disinfectants are not very effective against cryptosporidiosis, or coccidiosis.
"The less time that the calf is left in the calving pen the better to reduce the risk of infection. Moving on from the calving pen it is equally important that the ropes and any equipment used at calving are properly washed in a good disinfectant after each calving," she explained.
The utensils used for the collection and feeding of the colostrum are equally important and should be properly cleaned after every use. "We also have to think about ourselves. We go from the pen where the calves are to the calving pen to deliver another calf and we can be carrying contamination on our hands, on our overalls or our footwear if they are not kept perfectly clean and disinfected after each calving," she said.
"You must remember that if you are bucket feeding calves that you feed the youngest calf first and move up to the older calves so that if there is infection that it is not being carried and if there is a sick calf they should be left to last to feed," she added.
While the calving pen is the first place that the calf is exposed to infection, the calf housing is just as important and must be kept clean and dry.