Dr. Rob Farruggio, Jefferson Veterinary Clinic – The Invisible Threat: It’s a Meance to the Dairy

Posted on July 2, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
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Article written by Macy Sarbacker
Calf raisers can easily pick out major disease threats in their herds, according to Dr. Rob Farruggio of Jefferson Veterinary Clinic in Jefferson, Wisconsin. These known threats include the bacterial and viral causes of both scours and pneumonia.

The long-term impact of scours means a lot of money lost. Farruggio said 20 to 25 percent of U.S. dairy calves develop diarrhea that requires electrolytes before 21 days of age. In turn, calves that are treated for scours are 2.5 times more likely to be culled from the herd.

Some suggestions of traditional practices to control these known threats of scours and pneumonia include: separating the calf from the dam in less than 30 minutes after birth, making sure dry cow vaccine programs are up-to-date, feeding quality colostrum to calves less than four hours after birth, minimizing the failure of passive transfer, making sure calf vaccine programs are current, and maintaining a clean, dry environment with quality airflow.

So, what is this invisible threat?

The invisible threat is biofilm. Farruggio described biofilm as “bugs” that live on a surface and guard themselves with a protective layer that you can’t see. This bacteria may be planktonic, which means free-floating or swimming, or sessile, which means the organisms are attached to the surface.

Where on your operation does biofilm occur? Biofilm can be found on stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, plastic, or rubber surfaces, in water, and, unfortunately, just about everywhere else.

Now that we know this threat exists and is causing our calves to become ill with scours and pneumonia, what can we do?

The first step is to do a sanitation audit. It can be done by your veterinarian or nutrition consultant. This audit will help determine which areas are of major concern: feeding equipment, environment and/or water. This audit does not identify what type of bacteria is on the farm.  Rather, it tells you the amount of bacteria present. However, Farruggio said it luckily doesn’t matter what type of bacteria it is because it can still be fixed.

The second step is to clean and sanitize. Cleaning is done in a variety of ways:  clean in place, clean out of place, foam cleaning and manual cleaning. Four factors contribute to the effectiveness of disinfectants: concentration, time, temperature and physical labor. Farruggio said one great product to try is chlorine dioxide. The compound is EPA-approved for livestock drinking water and is effective on biofilm control.

It is important to remember that, when you go through a cleaning process, you need both a detergent and a disinfectant. Sanitizers do not destroy or eliminate bacteria, they just reduce the number of bacteria present.

Farruggio recommended talking to your Vita Plus or dealer consultant to do a sanitation audit on your calf facilities and set up a sanitation plan specific to your farm.

Click to access Calf Summit 2014 proceedings

Category: Sanitation
Starting Strong - Calf Care