The daily routine on beef farms over the past few months has moved away from being centred on the farmyard and buildings to grazing fields and other fieldwork.
Assuming that the first cut of silage has been taken, slurry spread and fertiliser applied to the land, attention should now be focused on maintenance and cleaning of all buildings and handling facilities associated with winter housing.
All evidence will conclusively show that a proper summer hygiene routine will pay dividends in reducing the disease burden when housing the following winter.
Areas which should receive a thorough cleaning include cattle transport vehicles, handling pens, handling race, calving pens, calving house, sick pens, feed store, housing pens and all other equipment associated with livestock.
This is of vital importance, not simply for aesthetic reasons, but also to control bacteria, viruses, fungi and mites that are harboured in faecal material, bedding straw, mud, old feed residue, cobwebs, etc.
The main area for attention and often most neglected is the actual housing pens. I am often shocked upon visiting farms to see, in the middle of the summer, empty houses that not only have not been cleaned out but, if the underground storage is also being used for effluent storage, material will be above floor level. This is an ideal breeding ground for all pathogens.
The housing area needs thorough cleaning of all slatted areas, lie-backs, feeding areas, feeding troughs and all spots inside of the roof area. Power-washing is essential in order to thoroughly clean these areas. If material has been caked onto concrete, overnight soaking in water will loosen most of the material and lessen the time spent power-washing.
All excess faecal matter and feed should be firstly removed. On slatted areas, scraping between the slats using a digging spade or specially adapted scraper will lessen the time spent power-washing.
The inside of all roofs should also be washed. Not only will this remove dust and cobwebs but, if roof lights haven't been cleaned for some time, cleaning will improve the lighting in the house significantly.
At all stages during washing appropriate protective clothing should be used, along with a face guard. Electricity supply should also be cut off from lighting and power points while using high-pressure washing equipment. If you do not have the necessary equipment to carry out this operation, there are many professional contracting services that carry out these services and they ought to be considered.
When the final wash is complete, attention should then be directed to water trough hygiene. These should be fully drained and any solid material removed. When visiting farms I regularly have to draw the farmer's attention to the need for regular cleaning of water troughs to ensure the animal's drinking water is fresh and not limited.
The old saying that if you wouldn't use the water in the cattle trough to put into your whiskey then you shouldn't expect the animals to drink it is certainly true. Finally, the water troughs should be sanitised using a preparatory sanitiser and left empty until just prior to the animals being housed.
Summary of proper steps to break disease cycle:
1. Clean sheds and get rid of faecal material, straw, mud, etc;
2. Power-wash buildings;
3. Disinfect buildings (always use approved products);
4. Leave to dry for the summer months; desiccation gives a further kill.
Gerry Giggins can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org