THE COLOSTRUM COUNSEL - 6 Easy Steps to Properly Clean and Sanitize Calf Feeding Equipment

Cleaning calf and heifer feeding equipment is a vital part of every dairy. Without proper cleaning and sanitation of feeding equipment, disease and illness can quickly spread between calves.

Follow these steps to ensure calf feeding equipment isproperly sanitized.

1. Rinse

First, using warm water, about 90-100 degrees F, rinse dirtand milk residues off both the inside and outside of feedingequipment. Do not use hot water to rinse.

2. Soak

Next, soak the calf feeding equipment for 20-30 minutes ina mixture of hot water greater than 54-57 °C / 130-135 °F  and 1 percent (pH 11-12) chlorinated alkaline clean in place (CIP) detergent.

3. Wash

Then, thoroughly wash inside and outside of the feeding equipment with a brush. You can also wash bottles and buckets in an industrial dishwasher. Fats melt at temperatures greater than 43°C / 110°F, so keep the water temperature above 63°C / 145°F during washing.

Manually wash bottle nipples with a brush. Do not wash nipples in a dishwasher, as they fail to properly clean nipples and this can lead to high bacteria counts in the milk. While manually washing nipples, check for any visible cracks and signs of wear and tear. Replace those that are worn. Cracked nipples can harbor bacteria.

4. Rinse again

Rinse for about 5 minutes using warm water (about 38°C / 100°F) that contains 50 ppm of chlorine dioxide, thoroughly rinsing inside and outside of the calf feeding equipment. Then rinse the equipment with acid (pH 3-4) to control milk stone once or twice a week. After rinsing the nipples, keep them in a covered container filled with a 50ppm sanitizing solution of chlorine dioxide solution untilthey are used.

5. Dry

Then, allow the equipment to drain and dry before usingagain. Avoid stacking upside down on a concrete fl oor or onboards, as this can inhibit proper drying and drainage.

6. Final preparation

Lastly, spray the inside and outside of equipment with a 50ppm solution of chlorine dioxide two or less hours before use. Allow a minimum of 60 seconds of contact with equipment.

After all six cleaning steps have been completed and the equipment is dry it should be ready to use again. The above steps refer directly to calf milk feeding equipment, but thesame considerations for cleaning and sanitization should be given to the water and starter buckets. At a minimum calf water buckets and starter buckets should be cleaned and sanitized between groups of calves.

Why Choose Chlorine Dioxide Over Household Bleach?

As a sanitizing rinse agent, the best product on the market for farm use is chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide activity is not affected by pH. 

Figure 1: The pH of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is 13-14. When bleach is added to water it forms bothhypochlorous acid and the hypochlorite ion. The relativeamounts of each are affected by the pH of the solution; a problem with using bleach as a disinfectant.

For example, at a pH of 8.5 roughly 10% of the bleach existsas hypochlorous acid and at a pH of 6.5 roughly 90% ofthe bleach exists as hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acidis a very good disinfectant (biocide) having approximately 80 times more killing power than the hypochlorite ion. A ten percent household bleach solution has a pH of 10-11 depending on the acidity of the water. When the pH is greater or equal to 10 there is virtually no hypochlorous acid present in the solution.

A note of caution, the pH of the solution should never be less than 5.5. When the pH of the solution drops below 5, large amounts of chlorine gas are created.

Producers must get in the habit of using commercially available test strips to verify their concentrations of chlorine dioxide are right prior to use.

Figure 2: The table shows the concentration and contact time needed for different types or classes of disinfectants to kill ≥ 99% of Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts at room temperature. We want to ensure the solution is strong enough to kill Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts since they have a very high resistance to chemical germicides; higher than microorganisms such as M.tuberculosis or Staphylococcus.

Donald Sockett, DVM, MS, PhD
Donald C. Sockett, DVM, MS, PhD
Epidemiologist/Microbiologist - Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
United States
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