Calf Health & Hygiene

Date: 21/09/17

Calf Health & Hygiene

Calf Health and Hygiene

A successful calf rearing system aims to produce a healthy calf which is capable of optimum performance throughout its life.

To ensure the calf gets a healthy start, the aim is to minimise the calf’s exposure to disease, and maximise its defence against disease. Maximising its defence against disease will mean ensuring adequate colostrum or colostrum substitute is fed to give antibody protection in the gut, and supporting the natural development of immune responses. In minimising a calf’s exposure to disease, providing a clean, disease-free environment is fundamental.

This involves:

  • Having protocols to ensure adequate colostrum is fed in the first 24 hours and a thorough cleaning and disinfection program, before and during the calving season, of all areas used by calves is followed.

  • Providing a clean, straw-bedded lying area with no draughts and good ventilation.

  • Ad lib fresh water is available.

  • Rearing in batches so that young calves are never mixed with or accommodated in areas used by older calves.

    The calf rearing sector should be a key part of the overall Herd Health Plan including biosecurity, vaccination and culling of carrier animals to address disease problems.


Why does the calf need colostrum?

Apart from being a nutrient rich first feed, containing bioactive compounds which help promote gut development, the calf needs colostrum as a source of immunoglobulins (antibodies) which offer significant protection against disease during the first few weeks of life. 

The cow’s placenta does not allow the transfer of maternal immunoglobulins to the calf before birth so calves are born without adequate antibodies. As the calf’s ability to produce its own antibodies only develops slowly over the first 3-4 weeks, if it does not receive sufficient antibody-rich colostrum immediately after birth, it will have little protection against infection and consequently have an increased risk of poor health and mortality. 

  • Antibodies are globular proteins produced by the body’s immune response system to fight diseases.

  • Each individual varies in its ability to produce antibodies and thus fight disease.

  • Calves are dependent on receiving maternal antibodies via colostrum.

  • Colostrum varies greatly in the type and concentration of antibodies.

Animals receiving inadequate colostrum are extremely vulnerable to intestinal infection and subsequent scours. The Dams colostrum may need to be supplemented with an artificial one to ensure the Calf gets the maximum protection.

Kilco Calf Colostrum

  • Functional egg powder containing natural egg proteins

  • Supports the intestinal immune system in critical periods

  • Improves the intestinal health

  • Improves health status and performance of young animals

Composition (w/w)

  • Lactose: 39.0 %

  • Protein: 30.0%

  • Oil / Fat: 20.5%

  • Fibre: negligible

  • Ash: 6.0 %


  • Vitamin A: 35,000 IU per kg

  • Vitamin D3: 10,000 IU per kg

  • Vitamin E: 188 mg per kg

  • Vitamin B12: 6,000 mcg per kg

Chelated Minerals and Nucleotides

  • Iron: 10 mg per kg

  • Copper: 4 mg per kg

  • Zinc: 14 mg per kg

  • Manganese: 10 mg per kg

  • Nucleotides: 1% w/w

Egg Proteins and Prebiotics

  • Prebiotics: 1% w/w

  • Egg proteins: approx 2.9 % w/w


Another option to help boost immunity is to give the Calf a nutritional paste containing the same range of ingredients as the colostrum.


  • A nutritional paste containing vitamins and chelated trace elements

  • Contains oligosaccharides (prebiotic) and a unique high energy carrier that aids assimilation


  • Vitamin A: 395,000 IU per kg

  • Vitamin D3: 68,000 IU per kg

  • Vitamin E: 2,325 mg per kg

  • Vitamin B12: 142,000 mcg per kg


  • Calcium: 500 mg per kg

  • Iron: 6 mg per kg

  • Copper: 28 mg per kg

  • Zinc: 10 mg per kg

  • Manganese: 25 mg per kg

  • Selenium: 8 mg per kg

Energy carrier and Nucleotides

  • High energy vegetable oil: 62% w / w

  • Nucleotides: 3.85% w / w

Egg proteins and Prebiotics

  • Prebiotics: 3.3% w/w

  • Egg proteins: approx 0.65 % w/w


Common causes of infectious diarrhoea in the calf 

Age of animal                  

Causal Organism

1-7 days

E. coli, Rotavirus, Coronavirus


Cryptosporidium parvum

10-20 days


21-56 days


Despite best practice, most farmers will have to deal with the occasional scouring calf or outbreak in a season. A milk scour, as the name suggests, is caused by too much milk. Milk scour is usually self-limiting and the animal can remain in good form while it recovers. Infectious scours are much more serious for the farmer. Regardless of the pathogen, the biggest cause of mortality is not the pathogen itself, but the resulting loss of fluids and electrolytes. Therefore, the vital treatment is extra electrolyte feeding or Oral Fluid Therapy (OFT).


  • must be palatable

  • must rehydrate

  • must correct acidosis

  • must provide energy

Continue feeding milk during the diarrhoeic period in addition to electrolyte feeding. Results have shown that calves that receive milk and electrolytes recover faster and have lower mortality rates than calves fed electrolytes alone.


Specifically designed for the replacement of water and electrolytes in calves. Contains natural prebiotics which have been shown to enhance the natural gut microflora. Promotes the absorption of electrolytes and energy compounds thus aiding fluid balance. Contains natural fibres and easily absorbed carbohydrates. No milk withdrawal from the calf.


  • High energy vegetable oil: 2.0%

  • Soluble dietary fibre: 38%

  • Glucose: 17%

  • Maltodextrin: 21%

  • Sodium citrate: 4%

  • Sodium chloride 4%

  • Sodium bicarbonate: 6%

  • Potassium chloride: 2.4%

Egg proteins and Prebiotics

  • Nucleotides: 1.5%

  • Prebiotics: 1.5%

  • Egg proteins: 0.4%


Hygiene throughout the rearing system is vital, disease and infection in the first weeks of life will have costs associated with treatment and reduced feed conversion resulting in poor growth. 50% of calf deaths are due to scours caused by poor hygiene on farms. However, if efficient hygiene management practices are put in place, these losses can be prevented.

Bio-Security in the Calf House

Vaccination and medication play an important role in disease prevention. However neither of these can offer complete, effective and economical protection against the wide range of disease organisms that threaten calves. Biosecurity completes the armoury of protection, excluding disease organisms from the animal's environment. This is the only way that the cycle of disease can be broken. It is particularly important against the threat of so-called “management diseases”, such as calf pneumonia and calf scours.

Biosecurity can only be achieved through regular and comprehensive routines, using products that are proven to be effective against viral, bacterial and fungal disease organisms.

Cleaning ‘The Kilco Way’

By planning and then following a set cleaning programme designed around the movement of animals through the Calf Rearing system you will ensure the calf goes into each stage in a clean disease free environment.

Setting protocols to clean each area will be key to ensure the plan is followed.

The simple stages of cleaning are:

  1. Muck out
  2. Pre-rinse
  3. Detergent
  4. Rinse
  5. Disinfect 


The Detergent

Ecofoam Advanced

Using a quality detergent to remove all organic matter prior to disinfection is paramount to the routine. Ecofoam Advanced has been developed specifically for this purpose.

A ultra high performance alkaline long cling foam cleaner designed to clean heavily soiled areas.

  • Advanced “Wet Film Foam” Technology gives enhanced cling to all surfaces

  • Ideal on porous surfaces

  • Excellent removal of carbohydrate, starch, fat and protein deposits

  • Fully effective regardless of water hardness

  • Proven to significantly reduce time and workload required during wash down


The Disinfectant


 This DEFRA approved disinfectant is clinically proven in the defence against oocysts responsible for coccidiosis and cryptosporidiosis.

  • Practical easy to apply solution, easy to mix and easy to use

  • Specially formulated, chlorocresol based disinfectant with strong microbiocidal properties (passed EN1656, EN1657,EN14349)

  • Passed the rigorous testing requirements recommended by the German Veterinary Association (DVG) against spore-forming oocysts.

  • Can be used in Poultry, Pig, Sheep, Goat & Cattle Housing

  • Eliminates risk of residues (Cyuranic acid free)

  • Contains no chemicals of industry concern (QUAT- free)


By following these simple procedures you will ensure your calves get the best start to their lives and will thrive as they grow thus ensuring maximum profitability for the farm.

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