If you’re like every other producer I know, efficiency and low waste is something we all aim for on the farm. We all want to get the best bang for our buck. However, there are a few instances in the calf world that throwing things away is OK and encouraged. I’ve highlighted those below.

1. Esophageal Feeders. Esophageal feeders are notoriously difficult to clean. For that reason, you should plan on
having one for sick calves and one that is only used to feed new babies their colostrum. They should be clearly
labeled as such so there’s no confusion on which is which. You should also plan throw away both esophageal feeders
at least quarterly. Why? I have not yet found to date a good and 100% effective way to clean out these feeders.
Bacteria will multiply in them and since we can’t clean out the bacteria, I would recommend that you throw the filth
away.

2. Old Nipples. If you can tip your bottle upside down and milk runs out of the nipple, you need to throw it away. If
you can see cracks in the nipple, then you also need to throw it away. With time, rubber degrades – this is exactly
the reason why we replace milking liners at a set number of milkings – this same principle also holds true with calf
nipples. As rubber degrades, bacteria can harbor in crevices and cracks that develop over time. Furthermore, highly
used nipples can contribute to clostridial bloat risk as calves tend to rumen drink. For these reasons, we would
recommend that you throw away 10% of your nipples at each feeding. Always have a few new ones on hand, because
you should be throwing the bad ones out on a regular basis.

3. Old Bottles. Most bottles can last up to 1-2 years of life. However, if your bottles are collapsed, if there’s a film
inside of the bottle that cannot be removed or if you can see scratches on the inside or outside of the bottle, it’s time
to say goodbye. Remember that from point #2, scratches and film pretty much equal bacteria. Expect to throw away
5% of your bottles every month due to normal wear and tear.

There are plenty of ways that your veterinarian can help determine if your bottles are still getting clean after your
cleaning protocol. It’s as simple as a quick visual look and some swabs to prove that they’re clean. If we at PLS/VMC
can help you with your calf cleaning protocols, don’t hesitate to call us. Have a very merry and safe Christmas season!

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