Auto feeders are great, they can help relieve many common issues with calf raising. Some issues an auto feeder may resolve could be insufficient employees, wanting to feed more volume or increase feeding frequency but not having the equipment or time, and many other challenges that come with calf raising.
While they do offer relief in some areas, they also have increased challenges in other areas. The main challenge with auto feeders seems to be sanitation.
There are a lot of areas that can be hard to see or clean. That’s why you have to be on your toes when it comes to cleaning and sanitation.
Here are some things that we do to keep everything in check, and make sure things are clean. The goal is to decrease the risk of challenges to the calf’s immune system more than it already is at a young and vulnerable age.
- Change all hoses quarterly.
While it may be a little bit expensive to routinely change hoses, it’s also very important. Even if you run a regular CIP cycle, there can still be build up and bacteria that hides in the hoses, and is almost impossible to get out. It is best just to start fresh and know for sure that the hose is clean and ready to go.
2. Check CIP pH levels weekly.
The main component of a CIP cycle is either alkaline detergent, acid, or both. Either way, you can quickly and easily check to make sure that the cleaning product is going in, and that it is also going in at the right level. We check our auto feeder CIP pH levels frequently to be sure that the CIP is performing the way it should be. If the pH is too low or too high, you can easily adjust your concentration on your hand-held device. All you need is pH test strips, and to be there when the machine runs the CIP cycle!
3. Check filters monthly
There should be a filter between your water source and your machine. You can easily open this up and clean out the filter. If you have good water, it may seem like a waste of time, but even then things can get in there and get stuck. It is even more critical if your water is of lower quality. This can cause a host of issues and can wear on the machine if left unchecked for an extended period of time.
4. Get a GOOD CIP cleaner.
When we first got our auto feeder, we used the low-temperature alkaline detergent. After doing our first sanitation audit, we were shocked to find the hose ATP meter reading was over 7,000! We quickly rinsed the detergent bottle out and replaced it with DK-ll. Later that week I did another audit to make sure it was working. The ATP meter read less than 30, phew, disaster avoided. We now use DK-ll as our daily CIP cleaner, and will occasionally run an alkaline detergent just for good measure.
5. Do regular sanitation audits.
Like I said above, if we wouldn’t have done a sanitation audit, we would have gone on thinking things were fine, solely because things looked clean. That was not the case! Disasters can be avoided just by taking 30 minutes a month to get a sanitation audit done. We love using DK-ll in our auto feeder for a few reasons. The first is that it WORKS. Secondly, it is a low-temperature cleaner, so it pairs great with the feeders. Lastly, the cost per use is low, at about 22 cents per day.
6. Clean the feeding area and nipples daily.
Any place that the calf can reach around the feeding area should be cleaned every day. Milk gets splashed on everything, sometimes calves come up to the feeder with manure on their face, it can get messy fast. The best way to avoid calves ingesting high bacteria loads is by cleaning everything daily. This includes the nipple, the nipple holder, the front plastic by their chest, the RFID reader, the mixing jar area and even the metal bars on the chute. I have saved a ton of time and effort by lightly misting the chute, the nipple area, and the mixing jar area multiple times a day with DK-ll. It keeps the milk and manure from sticking, it helps loosen and remove anything that has dried to the chute and nipple area, and it knocks back any stubborn or hidden bacteria that may not be able to be reached by a brush. Be CAUTIOUS when spraying the auto feeder, you can do damage if you use too much water!
As you can see, bacteria is sneaky, and can hide in many hard to reach and hard to detect places. By following these steps, you can easily avoid many issues that arise in auto feeders, just by making sure your sanitation protocols are up to par!
How are you keeping your auto feeder sanitation in check? What else do you do?