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New ideas for feeding and housing calves

Designs and technology showcased in Germany

New technology for feeding calves on pastures, whether you have a few or a lot.

Giving young calves the best start in life will reward farmers in the long run, as healthier animals thrive much better.

With a growing consumer focus on animal welfare, farmers are being urged to ensure calves destined for both beef and dairy herds have the best comfort in life.

This was a key message delivered on several stands at EuroTier in Hannover, Germany during November 2018 where the focus was on developing equipment that give calves the best start.

Feeding milk is vital for good early calf health but feeding high numbers of calves can be a real pain.

German company Patura has introduced its mobile milk express unit that can feed up to 50 calves at once. This unit can be transported all around the farm and placed either indoors in pens or outdoors in the fields.

The tank holds 500 litres of milk that is mixed within three to five minutes with the onboard Honda four-stroke pump.

The unit on display had 30 teats therefore could feed 30 calves, but this can be increased to 50 if the farmer requires it. There is also a five-metre dispensing nozzle at the rear of the feeder should the operator prefer to feed calves in single pens, dispensing the milk from the large tank. This complete unit with 30 teats costs in the region of C$10,558.

Housing young calves outdoors is popular on dairy farms but now beef farmers are also using the rearing method.

Dutch company VDK Products has developed the CalfOTel Hybrid which houses the calves from one day old to three months old in a multiple-occupancy hutch made of fibreglass-reinforced polyester with a smooth inner coating.

The hutch can be divided with partitions to suit calf numbers and is very easily cleaned and disinfected. The opening door at the front allows for easy access and visibility of the animals to the farmer.

Its overall shape and adjustability provides a good microclimate in all weather conditions for the young calves. The CalfOTel Hybrid is available from January 2019 and costs C$5,279 for the four-calf model.

Another calf pen at the show featured an easy cleaning method. The Topcalf pen, whether single units or triples, can be lifted up with a forklift or loader and taken to the manure pit to be emptied.

When hoisted the floor of the calf pen is tilted by opening it with a lever mechanism therefore emptying all the manure out from inside the pen. With the floor open and the pen still hoisted the floor, which is a plastic grid, can easily be cleaned with a pressure washer.

The Dutch manufacturers say the calves can be reared up to eight weeks of age in these pens, promoting growth and reducing stress.

Each pen with floor bucket feeders and tilting floor costs C$1,205.

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