With time and labour at a premium, more and more beef and dairy farmers are looking at computerised calf feeders as a means of reducing labour in the springtime.
Computerised calf feeders will feature heavily at this year’s National Ploughing Championships.
Förster-Technik and Urban, who used to be on the Volac stand, are now taking their own stands.
Long-standing Irish company JFC will also have its own stand with its computerised feeder on display, while Dairymaster will have the Holm and Laue feeder on its stand.
The Galway-based company will have its full range of farm equipment on display, the centre piece being the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder.
This computerised calf feeder is capable of feeding and monitoring the performance of up to 140 calves, coming fully equipped with a touchscreen display, dual hoppers and mixing bowls.
Kilkenny dairy farmer Dick Howley purchased his feeder in 2020 and he says that he’s really impressed with how the feeder has performed.
“I’ve had the feeder for a full calving season and I am just astonished at how well it has worked for us. The time that it saves is massive. Between morning and evening feeding, it’s saving at least two hours every day.”
Dick is milking 140 cows near Mooncoin and invested in the feeder to save time and allow for more free time to spend with his young family.
Calves get colostrum and then transition milk for the first four to five days and are then trained on to the feeder.
One of the stations is used for training the calves with the other three stations are used for the older calves.
“The Evolution S4 is extremely easy to use. Everything we need is on the touchscreen. It shows the current feed and the previous three feeds of all the calves. There’s a green tick if everything’s OK and it’s a red ‘X’ if a calf hasn’t drank their allocation. There is great flexibility in the system,” he says.
One of the selling points with the JFC feeder is that there is an independent pump for each feed station so all four stations can be working at the one time whereas some other models have one pump for every two stations, meaning one calf will have to wait while the calf in the other station finishes drinking.
The Urban range of calf and lamb feeding equipment will be on display on the Urban stand for the first time in 2022.
Previously, Urban equipment was on display at the Volac stand but now Volac personnel will be at the Urban stand as Volac is the distributor of the Urban range of products across Ireland.
The flagship Urban Alma Pro feeder will be on display at this year’s National Ploughing Championships. The machine is capable of feeding over 120 calves with its four feed stations.
According to Joshua Hirneiss, the managing director of Urban, a new option on the Alma Pro, called the Fit Plus will make it much easier for farmers when training calves to the machine for the first time.
Fit Plus enables the machine to mix and feed at the one time. The Urban has been able to feed at four stations simultaneously for a number of years, but the ability to mix milk and feed at all four stations is a new addition.
Hirneiss says it will be very useful when training multiple calves to the feeder at the one time as it means the farmer doesn’t have to wait for the milk to mix before the calves can be fed.
The Urban also uses a sensor at each teat measuring the exact amount of milk consumed by each calf down to 1ml, whereas Hirneiss, says older versions and other machines are only accurate to 100ml as the metering sensor is on the mixing bowl, not the teat.
Another option which will be available soon and on display at Ratheniska is a new ultraviolet light option for disinfecting teats when not in use.
The UV light will kill 99.9% of all bacteria and germs within seven seconds and this light will shine on the teats after each feed.
Like Urban, Förster-Technik is attending the National Ploughing Championships in its own right this year having previously attended via the Volac stand.
Volac personnel will be present on the Förster stand this year. Of course, Förster-Technik machines are available in a variety of colours and brand names, such as DeLaval, Lely and GEA.
Up to 120 calves can be reared by the feeders using the four feed stations.
The automatic feeder records the feed consumption per calf so the farmer always has an overview of how each animal is performing. If a calf’s feeding behaviour changes, the feeder immediately reports it – allowing the farmer to respond quickly and prevent illness.
Förster-Technik is internet-enabled as standard and farmers can track performance on their smartphones with free apps.
This machine can be operated with whole milk or powder and cleaning is fully automated. Two calves can be fed at the one time.
The Kerry-based dairy equipment specialist will have its range of milking and feeding equipment on display and will also have a Holm and Laue computerised calf feeder which it also sells under the Dairymaster livery.