Nigel Fawdry: "The developer of the CalfExpert knows how to rear calves!"

29. März 2024 — Weights, Practice report, Calf feeders#CalfExpert #Great Britain #Calf feeding #Management #Animal weighing scales #Gains

Nigel Fawdry from Salford, Chipping Norton, England, has owned a CalfExpert feeder for three years. During our visit, Nigel talks about his experience with the feeding technology.

90 % of calves learn how to use the feeder within 12 hours

"Our feeder has four HygieneStations and feeds 20 calves in each pen. That's 80 calves in a single batch.

I know that the calf feeder can handle more calves, and some farmers do. But for us, 80 calves work best. We have 3 to 4 batches a year. That's 250-300 calves each year.

The calves come from 4 to 5 different farms at around three weeks of age. 90 % of the calves learn how to use the feeder within the first 12 hours. It's really fast. And the remaining 10 % require a maximum of 2 to 3 days.

Feeding speed is a good indicator of health

At first we had to learn a number of new things, because at the beginning we had some issues with bacteria, because we buy the calves from different farms. It's much better now, though, because we try to buy calves from fewer farms and we've changed the milk powder in consultation with our feed adviser. The CalfExpert has helped us to quickly identify sick calves. We monitor the amount of milk the calves have failed to consume. However, feeding speed is an even better indicator for identifying sick calves at an early stage.

The scales are great!

The scales on the HygieneStation give me the reassurance that my management is on the right track. Just one example: we always used skimmed milk powder. We tried whey powder for a while after it was recommended to us. But the weight gains we recorded showed us that it doesn't work. So we switched back to low-fat powder. The scales give us accurate information and enable us to better manage the weaning process.

We didn't use the automatic weaning function at first because it didn't work, but the scales still show us when calves have not reached the proper weight at weaning. We then simply feed them a little longer, while other calves are weaned a little earlier. Our technician has now installed new software that will allow us to automatically wean for the next batch. Yes, I am very happy with the scales!

The feeding programme and additional hygiene

The feeding programme is set at six litres a day and 135 g of CMR/litre. When calves arrive, they only receive three litres on their first day. And on the second day they are given their full six litres. We add 10 g of probiotic powder per litre in the first 10 days to help the calves overcome the stress of transport and support their development. They grow very well after that.

After the feed phase, we keep some of the calves in another barn for up to 12 months, sometimes we keep them until 18 months and then sell them to other farms for finishing. This is because finishing the animals is a completely different type of animal husbandry and we prefer to concentrate on rearing younger animals.

We wash the feeding stations manually once a week with hot water using a high-pressure cleaner. Given the number of calves, the station becomes a little dirty all round and we aim to reduce the bacterial load. We also change the teats every week and disinfect them for the same reason.

Good network connection in the barn thanks to WiFi and the CalfGuide app

The CalfGuide smartphone app allows us to check on the progress of the calves regularly throughout the day without physically having to go into the barn – a real plus, especially at eleven o'clock at night.

When we bought the feeder, we decided to install WiFi in the barn. It also enables the service technician in the UK and Holm & Laue in Germany to access the system remotely. This was invaluable, especially in the early days.

Someone at Holm & Laue knows how to feed calves

What I particularly like about the CalfExpert is my feeling that it was developed by someone who has reared calves themselves by hand. It really ticks all the boxes. The CalfExpert is so user-friendly and helps us so much in rearing our calves.”

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