Where Have Your Hands Been?

Bring it back in, jeez, get your mind out of the gutter!

Think about it though. You walk from the milk house or feed room with a bottle, you open the door, climb the gate, get the calf up, and then…. you start feeding them, right?

Some people believe in gloves, some people don’t. Either way, it is important that your hands are clean. Whether you are milking, feeding calves, or doing any type of vet work, clean hands are a must. 

The reason gloves are so popular in most cases (and industries) is because it is much easier to change gloves than it is to go to a sink, wash with soap and water for 60 seconds, and go back to your job. 

In the dairy industry, and especially in calf raising, wearing and changing gloves is a challenging thing to train others how to properly do, and to remember yourself! On top of that, the price of gloves has quadrupled, and they are getting very hard to find. 

I wanted to cover a few basics about wearing gloves when working with calves. I also have some really great examples of why it can get so confusing!

  1. Wearing gloves or washing your hands (a ton) is non-negotiable. If you want healthy calves, not having gloves in your barn is just about impossible. With calves, you are constantly switching back and forth between their head, body, bottle/bucket, mouth, and everything else your hands touch along the way. 
  1. If you touch ANYTHING besides the calf’s face, mouth, or bucket/bottle, you should be either changing your gloves or washing your hands. That includes the calf’s body, gates, bedding, doors, handles, and even the wall in the pen. There is so much bacteria along the way it would blow your mind.
  2. Calves are very susceptible to bacteria, especially at a young age. Putting dirty hands in their mouth can cause many issues, especially scours. If you are continually putting dirty gloves in their mouth, they will struggle. 

Now I’m going to go through a little scenario of something you or your employees might do, and what that looks like in terms of bacteria. 

I washed my hands, and grabbed a brand new pair of gloves out of the box. I put them on just like I would any other time. I didn’t touch anything, and took a swab of my glove with the ATP meter, 2. 

I grabbed a clean, disinfected bottle, and nipple, and put the top on. 

I walked to the calf pen, opened the gate, climbed into the calf pen, and ever so lightly touched the calf’s side, I paused and swabbed again, 1,185! As you can see from the picture, my gloves look like they are still clean, imagine how much bacteria is on a pair of gloves that look dirty!!

Most people would maybe look at their hands, say eh, they look good, and keep going. This is a critical point to change your gloves. Watch your employees closely, bug them about it. It will probably get annoying, but having sick calves is far more annoying.

Looks pretty clean right?!?!
Swabbed right after spraying with DK-ll.

At this point, I would typically be grabbing my second pair of clean gloves out of my pocket and changing them before continuing on to feed the calf. 

Instead, I did a quick spray down of my hands from the drop line we have in the center of the barn with premixed DK-ll solution (.5 oz to 1 gallon of water), and swabbed my glove IMMEDIATELY, 24, decent. 

I then waited a few more seconds (enough time to swab, wait the 10 seconds, swab again, and wait another 10 seconds for the second result) and swabbed again, 9, awesome!!!

So, as you can see, just by grabbing a clean bottle, opening a gate, and lightly touching the day-old calf’s side, I had already accumulated all kinds of bacteria. All it took to get back to nearly new gloves was a quick spray with DK-ll, and a couple of seconds. 

Swabbed about 60 seconds after spraying with DK-ll.

If you are looking for solutions to this glove shortage, I would highly recommend looking into DK-ll. It can save you a lot of money, time, and help your calves have an even cleaner environment. Now, instead of a pair of gloves costing $0.14, they cost about $0.50. The DK-ll cost is so small I can’t even calculate it (a fraction of a cent). It is also a more eco-friendly alternative to changing your gloves as often as you should.

So next time you go to put your hand in your calf’s mouth, just think, where have your hands been?

By: Brooke Vanderloop, Calf Manager at AVA Group Inc., Calf Consultant.

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