Different strains of bacteria are everywhere in your barn—in soil, in water, on humans, and on your animals. That’s why one of the best things that you can do is to make disinfection part of your barn routine. Proper hygiene can safeguard the wellbeing of your animals, whilst protecting your bottom line by protecting the health of high producing animals, like dairy cows.
It’s cheap and effective to take your disinfecting routine seriously, and it can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. In fact, a regular cleaning regiment can help quell the cases of disease in your barn. This is especially true in spaces in your barn where objects and animals exchange fluids, and therefore bacteria, like the milking parlour.
There are also regular rhythms of hygiene that range from daily to seasonal cleaning. At different times of the month and year, you’ll have to take your cleaning to another level. A deep clean will involve a complete overhaul of housing and milking pits, taking out all the mats and scrubbing underneath of them. There are also some regularly daily chores that cannot be missed, like staying vigilant by properly sanitising milking machinery after every use because when you do this you prevent bacteria from accumulating.
Step One: Remove Waste
Ultimately, the first thing that you need to do to prevent the spread of bacteria is to regularly clean out the waste and soiled bedding. It has been shown that simple cleaning removes 90% of infectious organisms1, and so by simply cleaning your stalls out, you’re effectively sweeping away the waste to prepare for cleaning. Getting rid of all dust and organic debris in the stalls—hay mixed with manure, urine, and blood— will get rid of the food source for bacteria.
If you’ve invested in stable mats, then you’ll likely be dealing with less bedding and waste than you did before. By purchasing high-traction flooring with cushion properties, you’ll need about two-thirds of the bedding that you used before. Stall mats eliminate the need for bedding to be used for cushioning, and instead it is used primarily for urine and waste.
Your goal should be to remove all the waste, so that you can prepare for the disinfecting phase of your cleaning. Whether it’s a stall or a parlour pit, sweep clean the area using sterilised brooms and brushes to prepare the area for the chemicals you’re going to use.
These brushes themselves should be disinfected regularly. And consider washing the brushes before you scrub down the stall2. Use separate sets of brushes for different places in your barn. For example, have a different collection of brushes for housing stalls and for parlour pits. This allows you to avoid the spread of chemicals. Veterinarians even advise that each horse should have their own brush for their stall in order to prevent skin problems from spreading from horse to horse3.
Step Two: Know Your Enemy Before the Fight
A dairy farm and a horse farm will have substantially different needs for cleaning and disinfecting. For horse stalls, a simple diluted bleach mixture (250ml of bleach for 4L of water) may be more than enough to clean the foam mats used for bedding. Be sure to scour with a power washer after dousing in the bleach mixture to avoid discolouration and degradation.
In addition, frequently pull the parlour mats up, and clean underneath them, and in between the jigsaw puzzle seams. One great tip is to take the mats outside after scrubbing them, and letting the mats dry in the sunlight. Bacteria can’t stand ultraviolet rays, and as an extra level of disinfectant, let your mats dry outside.
Inside a dairy, you might need more heavy-duty disinfectants to cleanse and sanitise the area. There’s a prevalent myth that one disinfectant can be used for a number of different uses, or in different locations. The truth is that one unique disinfectant cannot combat all the different sources of contamination at your farm.
Complex formulations of chemicals—made from a combination of iodine, chlorine, glutaraldehyde, phenolic or quaternary ammonium compounds—can do the best job of disinfecting different surfaces in your barn. In a parlour pit, fluids and waste combine on the floor, and pool, creating both a health hazard and a slipping hazard. It’s imperative to clean up between milking sessions, getting rid of the fluids that have pooled on the foam mats.
I’d suggest a brilliant article from the Cattle Site for information on different disinfectants, and for the different uses of the chemicals. From milking parlour hygiene to housing hygiene to milking machine hygiene, each area in a commercial dairy is discussed, going into specific details on how to rid yourself of bacteria which is affecting the health of your high producing animals.
Step Three: Wash Clean the Mats
EVA foam is a non-absorbent, anti-bacterial material which doesn’t absorb liquid and resists working strength dairy chemicals. That being said, any area where high-strength disinfectants have been used on EVA mats should be washed clean with a power washer.
Although EVA mats have quite a bit of traction, sometimes, right after cleaning, they may be slippery. Be sure to let the parlour pit operators know that the parlour pits are still wet, in order to avoid slipping.
Let’s Talk About Cleaning Rubber Mats
There’s a significant difference between rubber mats and EVA foam mats. Rubber is made from the crushed remnants of recycled tyres, which have been pressed together under tremendous heat and pressure. Although rubber mats may seem to be one uniform material, there might be small pores inside of each rubber mat. The vulcanisation process helps to minimise any pores in the rubber, making them non-absorbent.
However, for the ultimate antibacterial flooring, consider purchasing foam mats in areas with high bacterial buildup. Both EVA and XPE foam, the two main types of foam offered at Stable Mats Ireland, are non-porous because of the closed-cells in the foam. Foam mats are superior to rubber for disinfecting as the bacteria and disinfectant stay on the surface, and cannot permeate the outer layer.
Non-vulcanised rubber mats are great for use around your farm, but they may not be the best mats choice for housing your animals, and are certainly not suited for parlour pit mats. Bacteria might become trapped inside the porous material, but if you’re looking to use them to replace bedding in horse stall, then always go with vulcanised rubber mats like the 17mm Amoebic Rubber Stable Mats.
If you’re obsessed with keeping a clean barn, then don’t settle for inadequate flooring choses that with become a breeding ground for bacteria. Choose vulcanised rubber flooring which can be easily cleaned with a brush, some diluted bleach, and a pressure washer.
It’s never a simple task to rid your barn of bacteria, which can affect the health of your animals, but with a little of hard work and the right disinfectant, you can keep a clean area for both your animals and workers. Always be diligent when cleaning and disinfecting mats, removing all waste and using the proper disinfectant for the area. It’s cheap and efficient to make disinfecting apart from your barn routine.
Author: David Van Kooten