10 Maternity Must-Haves – Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus
The first hours of a calf’s life can have an immense impact on the rest of her life. These 10 must-have items can help you give your calves the best start possible in the maternity area.
1. Digital thermometer
Digital thermometers are quick and accurate. Use one to ensure colostrum and colostrum replacers are mixed and fed at the correct temperature, and water baths are the proper temperature to thaw frozen/refrigerated colostrum. Colostrum and colostrum replacers should be fed at 100 to 105 degrees F. This is a must for calves. That thermometer will also come in handy to check temperatures in refrigerators where colostrum is stored.
2. A good cleaning protocol
A calf is essentially born without an immune system, and it is our job to kick-start immunity development with good, clean colostrum. Is your newborn calf feeding equipment as clean as the dishes in your home? The answer needs to be yes. All equipment must be cleaned and sanitized for each calf. Follow the rinse, wash, acid and sanitize method described in this edition of Calf Chat with Jenn. This equipment should also be designated only for maternity purposes. Do not cross maternity feeding equipment with the older calves as sharing carries too high of risk for transferring disease to the newborns.
3. Brix refractometer
Colostrum quality also matters. Use a Brix refractometer to evaluate colostrum quality. Aim for a minimum Brix reading of 22 percent to ensure calves receive an adequate amount of immunoglobulin G antibodies to jumpstart their immune systems.
4. Rubber gloves
Your hands touch just about every surface on the farm throughout the course of a day. You want to make sure you do not transfer pathogens from other areas to newborn calves. Wearing clean gloves while feeding newborn calves can help reduce this risk.
5. Waterproof bibs
Your clothes can carry pathogens just like your hands can. Keep a pair of waterproof bibs in the maternity area so you can easily slide into them when working with newborns. This keeps you from introducing any bacteria from your clothing, and it also helps keep your clothes dry.
6. Newborn processing area
Create an easy-to-use area to work with your newborns. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be convenient and easy to clean. This space should be warm and dry for calves and include storage for newborn calf care tools, including navel dipping supplies, towels, and calf jackets.
It is important to dry the calf once it is removed from the cow, especially during the winter months. Vigorously dry the calf to the point where the hair is fluffy. This will help the calf stay warm and maintain body heat. The calf will also dry faster so it can wear a calf jacket sooner.
8. Navel dipper
Once the calf is born, the navel should be dipped immediately with 7-percent tincture iodine. This will protect the navel from harmful bacteria and accelerate its drying process. I prefer disposable Dixie® cups because a new cup can be used for every calf. If you choose a reusable cup, make sure you clean it regularly.
9. Cleaning brushes
Have a bottle brush, nipple brush and esophageal tube brush designated for calf equipment only. Make sure the bristles are still intact and can scrub all those hard-to-reach areas.
10. Drying rack
Every farm should have a good drying rack in a dry area. It should be big enough to hold all calf equipment and allow for good drying. Choose materials that are easy to use and clean. Racks should be far enough off the floor that drips or splashes cannot reach the feeding equipment.
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