On Farm Hygiene – How clean is your farm?

One of the most important ingredients for reaching a high level of performance and profitability cannot be bought in a bag, a lorry or even given to you by a consultant. In fact in most cases it is free and will only cost you the time to ensure that you focus on it. The return on investment from including this ingredient in your system and your ways of working is probably to quantify. Sounds too good, it is not; that ingredient is hygiene, and focusing on hygiene in everything you do.

Look at the images below, these are all high performance and profitable businesses. They all pay

The Hi-Tech Parlour at Blanca Dairy
The Hi-Tech Parlour at Blanca Dairy

attention to detail in keeping things clean and hygienic.

Hygiene is important in everything we do from growing and harvesting crops to the effectiveness of our milking routine in the parlour. Below I have put together a list of areas where hygiene is often poor and the consequences this may have on performance. All too often changes are made to many of these areas in order to save money but often result in costing the business more due to losses associated with poor hygiene.

Hygiene Improvement Areas
Area Effect
Beds Increase in environmental mastitis
Housing post drying off Increase in fresh cow mastitis
Ineffective milking routine Spread of contagious pathogens from cow to cow
Poor hygiene around cross overs and water troughs Poor hoof hygiene and increased rates of Digital Dermatitis (DD)
Harvesting and feeding raw milk and failure to pasteurise whole milk before feeding Increased risk in the spread of Johnes and Mycoplasma in the herd
Colostrum Management Bacteria present in colostrum prevents absorption of immunoglobulins across the gut wall so it is essential to harvest and store colostrum hygienically and at low temperature. Calf performance is severely hindered if the calf does not receive passive immunity via the colostrum.
Harvesting diseased crops due to poor crop protection Increase in the risk of fungal and mycotoxin contamination of feedstuffs
Poor feed and water trough hygiene Reduced DMI and water intake together with increased risk of ingesting pathogenic material
Poor storage of moist feeds and other feed stuffs Increased risk of fungal and mycotoxin contamination, loss of feed value and depressed DMI
Inadequate sanitation of calf feeding equipment Increased incidence of scours in young calves, other consequential diseases, poor performance and mortality
Poor hygiene in calf accommodation Increased risk of bovine respiratory diseases
Poor ground conditions during forage harvesting Increased risk of soil contamination in the forage, incidence of soil borne diseases, poor fermentation and clamp losses
Poorly maintained footbath, entry and exits Reduced efficiency of footbath
Persistently dirty feet on Transition and Milking Cows Footbathing no matter how frequently is ineffective if feet consistently have dried muck on their feet. This therefore allows DD to continue and take a stronghold in the herd. If transition cows have DD it is likely to transfer to the fresh cows if not dealt with.
Poorly maintained equipment Can lead to higher bactoscan/cell counts and incidence of mastitis through dairy hygiene chemical use

On farms where more than one person is working with the cows there needs to be clear protocols set out so everyone understands their role in ensuring hygiene is kept to a high standard. On larger units there are often laminated sheets at points around the farm to remind staff of protocols. Good hygiene saves money as there will be less problems with your calves and cows – no doubt your vet will be happier with a few small but crucial changes! On farm hygiene is often common sense; apart from the benefits to your cows there is a benefit to staff for working in a clean environment.

Blanca Dairy, Pyrenees
Blanca Dairy, Pyrenees









If you would like some advice on good hygiene practices or which chemicals to be using on farm for footbathing and milking equipment contact your Wynnstay Dairy Specialist or Animal Health Specialist.


Dr Huw McConochie

Head of Dairy Technical Services

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