Better calf hygiene will pay dividends

BEEF calf rearers are being urged to pay closer attention to hygiene and their biosecurity.

According to Diversey’s Deosan hygiene specialist David Horton,hygiene-related health issues are a major drain on the industry.

“The supply of well grown, healthy and vigorous calves is the lifeblood of the industry yet many calves are lost every year. Others will suffer reduced performance throughout their lives as a consequence of diseases that can be controlled more effectively if stringent hygiene management protocols are followed,” he says.

“A calf that is fighting disease will not grow as effectively and costs are increased as drugs are used to try and combat the problems.”

Pneumonia remains the biggest drain on the industry and is the most common post-mortem finding in calves from 1-5 months old.

Mr Horton explains while mortality is low, at around 3 per cent, pneumonia is highly infectious and around 50 per cent of young calves will be affected by a single outbreak.

“Pneumonia will spread rapidly and a group outbreak will cost around £4,000 per 100 calves. Affected calves will never grow to their potential, increasing the cost and days to slaughter.

“The risk and costs of pneumonia can be greatly reduced, however, if good hygiene practice is adopted, including the operation of an all in-all out approach followed by thorough cleaning and disinfection of the building prior to the introduction of the next batch of calves.”

Mr Horton explains problems with enteric disease and scours can also be reduced by paying closer attention to hygiene.


Scours is widespread in calf units and can be caused by many different pathogens, including rotavirus, E.coli and cryptosporidia. The average cost of a case of scours is put at £44 and this excludes the reduced lifetime performance.

“Good building hygiene and disinfection of feeding equipment can contribute to reduced levels of scours but biosecurity is also important to reduce the risk of pathogens being introduced. This means paying particular attention to the hygiene management of people and vehicles.”

Mr Horton says Deosan have been working on a new initiative with Blade Farming to develop the protocols and materials to allow their rearers to achieve best practice hygiene standards.

“Good hygiene is a vital part of a health plan for calf rearing and will reduce the costs of veterinary inputs if a protocol is followed correctly,” says Blade Farming’s Richard Phelps.

“The work we have done with Diversey has really helped our business in further improving the health of Blade calves.It is part of our long-term strategy of rearing calves to give our beef finishers a higher margin for their finished beef cattle through higher growth rates and shorter finishing periods.”

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