Jack Shanks farms in partnership with his parents Robert and Helen at Burnside Road, Dunadry, Co Antrim, and rears 178 heifer calves each year. Calving is at its busiest from August onwards.

Improvements in technology

“Previously we had a Volac computerised calf feeder that gave great service for over 15 years, but the latest Volac Förster model is a huge step forward,” Jack said.

“We installed the Volac Förster Technik with three feeding stations and two IFS (intelligent feeding systems), that let us feed 120 calves instead of 60. More importantly, three calves can drink at once across the feeding stations anywhere in our rearing unit.

“Equally impressive is that all are getting Blossom Easymix milk replacer by Volac mixed freshly on demand. No milk replacer is left mixed and unused for more than a few minutes. Each calf gets milk replacer in controlled amounts, with no variation in temperature or consistency.

From (L-R) are Volac technician David Johnston, on the Shanks family farm at Dunadry, with Greenmount Ag College student Sam Reid, farmer Jack Shanks and Volac business manager Alistair Sampson.

“The feeding points read each animal’s collar to ensure it is entitled to a drink at that time. The machine allows us to set a limit on the amount consumed and when, depending on the age of the calf and the rearing regime. No calf can overdrink, reducing the risk of bloat and stomach upsets due to gorging,” he added.

Jack is equally pleased with the training button at each feeding station. When training a calf around five days old to suck from the teat you simply press the illuminated green button which squirts milk into its mouth. This button also shows if a calf is getting milk and drinking properly.

Sam Reid from Finvoy is a student Greenmount Agricultural College and is currently on placement on the Shanks's farm.

“It’s a real time saver in calf training,” Sam said.

The way the feeder is designed to ensure that the calf does not feel trapped while in the feeding station also impresses Jack and Sam. Instead of solid sides the calf can see to the front and sides through metal rails. Feeling safer, the animal is easier encouraged in towards the teat when being trained to suck.

Volac Milk Replacer a proven winner

Jack Shanks recently upgraded to a Volac Forster Technik calf feeder.

The Shanks use Blossom Easymix milk replacer by Volac which is designed specifically for high-quality replacement heifer calves.

Jack and his father Robert don't use any other milk replacer brand.

“In the past we tried other makes, but our calves perform best on Volac Blossom Easymix milk powder as it is easily mixed and there is no frothing,” Robert said.

The very high levels of Volac’s unique concentrated dairy protein and lactose in Blossom Easymix help deliver the rapid frame growth in the early weeks of the calf’s life, thereby setting the platform to achieve critical target weights for mating at 15 months and calving at 24 months.

A farming system that works for the Shanks

When Robert returned to the family farm nearly 40 years ago, he started to upgrade the existing commercial herd to pedigree without ever buying in any animals.

Today the Dunadry Pedigree Holstein Herd is 260 strong with an average yield of over 10,000 litres of milk. All supplied to producer owned Dale Farm.

Sam Reid and Jack Shanks chatting to Volac technician David Johnston..

Sexed semen is used and around 40 surplus heifers are sold each year, often to repeat customers in the yard or mart. Most of these surplus heifers are moved off farm once weaned as space and time can be at a premium over winter.

Milking is twice a day through the parlour. Robert said that this gives a real feel for the stock and their welfare.

“Over the years we have bred the type of cows that suits this Co Antrim farm with an emphasis on good udders, legs and feet. The milking cows are well able to make best use of grass in the field or as winter feed from the silo.”

Volac expertise

For Robert and family rearing heifers is a key priority. The very foundation of the continued success of Dunadry Holsteins.

They use Blossom Easymix milk replacer by Volac and the Volac Förster Technik feeder to produce consistently good batches of even herd replacements.

The Shanks enjoy the peace of mind from knowing that Volac technician David Johnston is on call 24/7 to lend a listening ear or be on site promptly.

Jack added: “The German manufactured Volac Förster Technik feeder is a robust, reliable machine, but having David Johnston, Volac technician and Alistair Sampson, Volac business manager supporting us, gives real peace of mind.”

For more information contact a member of the Volac Ireland team today, click HERE