In my opinion auto feeders have gotten a bad rap over the past years. Illnesses that happen when using an auto feeder suggest that it is a feeder issue when this is the farthest from the truth. It has nothing to do with the feeder, the feeder does what it is asked to do, the feeder heats milk up, feeds the milk based off of the parameters we put into the calf feeder, it cleans itself twice daily and it works 24/7. However, management practices have everything to do with success (i.e.) colostrum management, nutrition, ventilation, sanitation & vaccination plans.
So the most difficult pathogen out there today in the calf world I believe is Mycoplasma. (M. bovis) is highly contagious and can be spread by respiratory coughing, nasal discharge, nose to nose contact, feed, water, bedding material, feeding equipment and workers. The highest incidence of disease is usually in calves that are housed in group pens and are suffering from environmental stress, especially cold-stressed calves.
So how does M bovis act? Mycoplasma has the ability to readily attach to the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. This is the reason that pneumonia in dairy calves is usually the most common disease caused by M. bovis. It can also spread from the lungs through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, such as the joints. Animals with subclinical infections act as a reservoir for new infections and can shed the organism into the environment for years without developing clinical disease. This shedding may be constant or intermittent. Animals that develop clinical signs of disease will shed extremely high numbers of Mycoplasma into the environment.
Newborn calves can easily become infected in the maternity pen through contaminated bedding, poor quality ventilation and cows that are shedding the organism. M. bovis has been cultured directly from the air in calf barns and is an important source of infection to young calves. It is extremely important that new cases of Mycoplasma pneumonia be identified and treated as early as possible in calves. If Mycoplasma is diagnosed, it is important to develop an effective treatment protocol using specific antibiotics that are effective against M. bovs. Consult your Veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatments. I have had personal experience with M bovis on our operation and auto feeder. Let me tell you it is not fun.
What characteristics does Mbovis pronounce itself as, When diagnosing a calf with mycolplasma the first thing that comes to mind is the tilted head, followed by droopy ears, crusty eyes, swollen joints and respiratory events. You can have one of these or all of these events happening.
My recommendations is to work with your Vet to help you find a good vaccine. We went with an autogenous vaccine which helped us tremendously, this vaccine was typed for a specific strain of Mbovis we had, however you need to make sure you follow the label on these vaccines. You also need to keep your environment CLEAN, did I say CLEAN.
On the auto feeders, it goes without being said, the exposure of pathogens is greater in a group environment. However, if you have one of our auto feeders, Calf Star has the HygieneStation. It’s called that for a good reason. If you put Chlorine Dioxide in your water source it will kill any pathogen left behind after a calf is finished drinking. On the HygieneStation itself, there is a 3 second delay after a calf leaves the stall before it sprays the nipple from 3 different directions cleaning the nipple and the tray before another calf enters the stall. So let’s not throw out the Auto Feeder with the bath water. Lets consider all the facts first.
Calf Star has seen and experienced reduction in environmental pathogens and treatment rates on farm by using the Chlorine Dioxide through the water source to the H&L100/Calf Expert Auto Feeder & HygieneStation
If you would like further assistance with M bovis and auto feeders, please consider reaching out for added support to one of our Calf Star dealers in your area.