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5 top tips for stomach tubing

Oral rehydration therapy is one of the foundations of good supportive therapy to sick animals we have on the farm. Using a stomach tube correctly can be a great therapeutic tool for farmers. Here are 5 top tips for using stomach tubes

  1. Get yourself a good tube

They are a vital piece of equipment on-farm, make sure your tube feeder is easy to use and durable. Ideally, they should be able to hold 3 litres + of fluids especially when being used to tube colostrum to newborn calves.

Where every calf is being tubed with colostrum you should have multiple tubes possibly to make sure they are cleaned properly between calves

Remember colostrum is the ideal medium for bacterial growth because of its high-fat content and difficulty cleaning off surfaces. The fatty layer can create a biofilm (slimy layer) for bacterial growth.

  1. Hygiene is critical

While the stomach tube works well, it must not transfer infections between calves. When being used for colostrum, that should be its only function.

Have two tubes at least, one for sick calves and one for colostrum.

Every time the tube is used, it should be cleaned in between calves. Rinse in cold water and then leave it soaking in clean water with an approved disinfectant. This can be done using a half-barrel or other large container.

Stomach tubes can also be cleaned with detergents before disinfecting. This can be done simply by a wash with cold water (or hot water) and washing up liquid. This is very useful where colostrum is being tubed as this contains lots of sticky fat which can easily build up a layer of biofilm on your tube.

Gold standard

  • Wash in cold water and detergent
  • Rinse with hot water
  • Leave soaking in clean water plus disinfectant (I recommend Milton)
  • Rinse with cold water before use

This will seem like overkill, but we are all learning the importance of hygiene and disease spread these days.

  1. Inspect old tubes for damage

Every time you stomach tube a calf feel the tip of the tube to make sure it is not damaged.

Damaged tubes will damage the throat of calves and potentially introduce infection. Throw away old tubes that are damaged.

Some people will use a small amount of lubricant on the tip of the tubes when inserting them. Generally, this is not needed once calves are restrained and slow careful introduction is used.

  1. Be gentle

The more struggling you do the harder it is to stomach tube a calf.

They respond well to gentle firm pressure on their sides and let their head move around.

Allow them time to swallow and pass the tube slowly and firmly. Have the tube locked until you have it inserted and then open the tap and allow it to flow. Any struggling stop.

When finished remove swiftly and gently.

  1. The two tube rule

Many people are afraid of stomach tubing, that fear of inserting the tube into the lungs. When you apply the two tube RULE you can overcome this worry.

Get comfortable feeling the windpipe (hard tube in the neck with cartilage rings). When you have inserted the tube properly, you should feel the two tubes separately. The windpipe and the stomach tube.

Never pour anything when tubing before feeling for the two tubes.

WATCH: the video above for a demonstration of some of these tips


Happy safe farming



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