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Good hygiene protects calves from disease

Good hygiene protects calves from disease

Good hygiene protects calves from disease

Cryptosporidiosis, a parasitic disease, can affect calves aged 5 to 35 days, though most frequently during the second week of life. Data from DairyNZ¹ suggests that cryptosporidiosis is now present on approximately 30 percent of New Zealand dairy farms.

The probability of a calf being a carrier of cryptosporidiosis increases during days 5 to 23, with a peak on day 14. The antibodies transmitted via the mother’s colostrum have limited effect on cryptosporidiosis, so creating a hygienic environment for calves is the best management tool. This involves regular and rigorous cleaning of the calves’ housing using a disinfectant with a proven efficacy against the parasite, to ensure calves do not ingest a high load of oocysts of Cryptosporidium parvum.

Cryptosporidium parvum can survive at temperatures ranging from -20 to +60 degrees Celsius. The presence of faeces helps them survive desiccation, so it is critical to eliminate as much organic matter as possible from the calves’ areas. Studies have found that calves carrying oocysts were three times more likely to show signs of diarrhoea than non-carrier calves.² Beyond the threshold of 2.2 105 oocysts per gram of faeces, calves are six times more likely to have diarrhoea.³

To help improve hygiene, house calves in pens providing good partitioning to help minimise contact with other calves. Empty and clean the calf pen between each batch of calves, disinfecting with a suitable product and organise calves by age, as opposed to size, as a weaker calf is more likely to be a reservoir of pathogens.

To minimise the transmission of cryptosporidiosis, maintain a logical order of work, feeding the youngest calves first followed by the oldest last. Make sure feeding equipment, buckets and milk bottles are cleaned and sanitised between each use using a detergent to reduce the prevalence of oocysts.

Cryptosporidium parvum can be difficult to eliminate as it is not sensitive to conventional disinfectants, with chlorine or glutaraldehyde having no efficacy. An amine disinfectant, Keno®cox is effective with a dilution of two percent and a contact time of two hours.

To view Ecolab’s range of bio-security disinfectants effective in removing cryptosporidiosis from calf housing, visit your local PGG Wrightson store.

1 On-Farm Research. (2022). Retrieved 8 April from

2 Trotz-Williams, L. A., Jarvie, B. D., Martin, S. W., Leslie, K. E., & Peregrine, A. S. (2005). Prevalence of cryptosporidium parvum infection in southwestern Ontario and its association with diarrhea in neonatal dairy calves. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 46(4), 349.

3 Trotz-Williams, L. A., Martin, S. W., Leslie, K. E., Duffield, T., Nydam, D. V., & Peregrine, A. S. (2007). Calf-level risk factors for neonatal diarrhea and shedding of cryptosporidium parvum in Ontario dairy calves. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 82(1-2), 12-28.