SHREWD LABOUR-SAVING INVESTMENTS BOOST FAMILY DAIRY FARM EFFICIENCY

Kidds

Family dairy farmers the Kidds from Quernmore near Lancaster have spent the last 10 years future-proofing their milking enterprise in the hope of building a sustainable farming business for the next generation.

Building a sustainable farming business

Booth Hall Farm is home to 150 all year-round calving Holsteins plus followers. Due to limited local expansion options, the family has focused on shrewd investments to save labour and improve animal welfare to allow the farm to run as efficiently as possible. The herd now produces 9,000 litres per cow per year from 360 grass acres plus some ground earmarked for growing whole-crop cereals.

Brothers David and Neil Kidd will be the fourth generation to run the enterprise and now farm in partnership with their mother Maureen and father Edwin, who still live in the farmhouse. Neil does most of the milking, with David focusing on feeding and rearing the calves. Ultimately, Edwin and Maureen will step back from the day-to-day running of the farm to allow their sons to take on more responsibility and drive the business forward.

Investing in calf housing

“Our first major investment was a new parlour, which was followed by improved cubicle housing for the cows,” David Kidd says. “But our latest project is a new re-located, totally bespoke calf rearing building, which is already transforming the way we rear our herd replacements. Going forward, investment will be channelled into projects like this that save us time. We do not really see ourselves getting much bigger, so it’s all about efficiency.”

David says the old calf accommodation wasn’t ideal, although the calves were reared individually and did do quite well. “However, we were spending too much time washing down the pens and bucket feeding. I was spending about 45 minutes a day making up feeds and feeding calves. We wanted a much easier system.”

In consultation with their parents, David and Neil decided to re-configure the calf housing on the home site. The old calf shed was demolished and this released ground ideally located for a new house for Neil. Following extensive research, the Kidds then erected a brand new, bespoke calf building, giving them the opportunity to build from scratch what they now see as fit-for-purpose, easily-managed accommodation for calves.

“The relocation of the calf house will ultimately allow Neil to move back onto the farm with his family and mean he can be around for any night calvings. It also means we can now rear our dairy youngstock as efficiently as possible,” David says.

Installing a Computerised Calf Feeder

The Kidds also sought advice from local Volac representative Jason Short about computerised calf rearing systems and following his input they became the first unit in the UK to install the new Urban Alma Pro computerised feeder.

Urban Parallel Pro June 2017-4

“Automatic milk feeding machine technology has really moved on and this innovative new computerised system really ticks all the boxes for us,” David says.

Volac’s Jason Short points out that the new machine is a great step forward at a time when the industry is focusing on sustainable, high performance calf rearing.

“The system is capable of feeding up to 120 calves individually and accurately during the pre-weaning milk feeding period. It also allows parallel feeding, which typically means no waiting time at the drinking station and up to four calves can be fed simultaneously. But what is really innovative in this new feeder is its improved hygiene system, which incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfection after every calf feed. And, uniquely, the ability to deliver the right dose of any necessary medications, such as electrolytes, to the right calf, at the right time,” he says.

The machine recognises an individual calf’s ear tag when it enters the feeding station and allocates the correct milk portion and concentration accordingly. Once the calf has taken its feed the teat will re-track and be sprayed with cold water and a disinfectant solution. Machine hygiene status has also been enhanced to allow sanitisation with acid and alkali up to four times a day, which cleans and sterilises the feed lines and bowl.

David appreciates these potential hygiene and medication benefits, but is particularly impressed with the touch-screen control system and the fact that it can connect seamlessly via WiFi to his phone or tablet.

kidds 1

 

“The calf feeding curves are easily programmable and thanks to an in-line temperature sensor it always mixes and feeds milk at a consistent temperature. The machine automatically knows the daily feeding requirements of each and every calf, so every animal gets exactly what it needs. You can also easily see how often an animal drank and how much it consumed – and if it doesn’t drink enough the machine triggers an alarm on your smart phone to alert us to a potential issue, even if you are not on the farm,” he says.

David says initially he was a bit nervous about group housing the calves, but the new building design means the rearing environment is good and the machine takes care of optimum nutrition. Early life colostrum feeding protocols are also excellent, which means the calves always enter the new rearing building in the best possible shape.

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“We separate all our calves from the cow at birth and tube feed them to make sure they get what they need, aiming to get four litres of high quality colostrum into them via two x two litre feeds within the first six hours of life. Our vet also blood tests calves periodically to check the effectiveness of our colostrum feeding.”

 EFFICIENT YOUNGSTOCK REARING

The Kidds believe the new calf house and computerised milk feeder have transformed the efficiency of their youngstock rearing.

“It’s certainly released a lot of my time to focus in other jobs,” David says. “But we’re also rearing high quality milking herd replacements at optimum efficiency, which calve down between 22 and 26 months of age.

“The first calves went into the new building at the end of June 2017 and all we have to do is train the calf onto the teat and the rest is done automatically. About 10% of all the work done on a dairy farm is dedicated to the calves and a big part of that is mixing and feeding milk, as well as cleaning out any buckets and/or hutches or pens. We still have to clean out, but the group pen design and extra space and capacity we built into the original building plan means this is now as straightforward as possible. It’s made a huge difference to the time we spend on this part of our dairy farming operation.”

If you would like to find out more about the Urban Alma Pro, get in touch today.

Rearing to go

Halton Farms, based near Congleton in cheshire is a year-round calving farm. Faced with a hefty bill for rearing replacement heifer calves, Karen and tom halton have taken the future of their dairy replacements into their own hands.

halton 4

“It’s almost impossible to find people who will take care of your animals the same way you do,” says Karen Halton of Halton Farms based near Congleton in Cheshire.

Two years ago, Karen and her husband, Tom, were footing a hefty bill of £14,000 a month to rear replacement heifer calves from their 530-head herd of ProCROSS dairy cows.

“Not only was it very expensive, but it wasn’t being done to our standards,” Karen says. “And these calves are the future of our farm – they have to be made a priority. Our livelihood depends on it.”

a Strong start for dairy and beef calves

Currently, the year-round calving farm, which AI services 50 percent of its cows to fertility plus semen, and the other 50 percent to ProCROSS sexed semen, takes a no-nonsense approach to its calf rearing unit. According to Karen, dairy heifer calves and beef calves are managed differently to suit their future roles. However, both are given a strong foothold for a healthy start to life with a priority on biosecurity and colostrum intake.

“It’s in our management plan to eradicate Johne’s Disease from our herd and at calving we keep all positive cows separate from clean cows,” Karen says. “We also have a dedicated calving pen. Once cows begin the calving process, they are moved into the pen to calve, which is then completely disinfected after each use.”

Download our Farmers Guide to Johne’s Disease

Once calved, cows are allowed to lick their calves clean and any dampness leftover is dried away. All calves are bottle fed four litres within the first hour of being born, or approximately 10 percent of its body weight, with colostrum milked from the dam after it has been tested with a refractometer.

“The standard protocol for the dairy calves is to only bottle feed colostrum,” Karen says.

“Occasionally one refuses to suck, so we will have to stomach tube it. However, a trick I have is to mix in electrolytes with the colostrum when they won’t take it. The sweetness makes them more likely to suck and the electrolytes fire them up.”

Post colostrum feeding, beef calves are removed from their dam and placed in a pen with one to two other beef calves and teat fed Volac Blossom milk powder for a week. This trains them to nipple feed before being moved to a larger pen of five calves to ad-lib feed off a milk warmer. Their stay at Halton Farms is relatively short since a beef calf buyer comes once a week to take the three-week old calves.

Find out more about Volac Blossom

Dairy heifer calves are moved into a training pen post colostrum bottle feeding, where they are trained on to Volac’s Förster Technik Vario Smart Feeder, which feeds them up to 10 litres of milk per day. For the first week, calves are kept in the training pen and fed Volac Heiferlac powder before being transitioned to a larger group.

“This machine has been pivotal to our replacement heifer rearing programme. Calves wear collars with sensors that track how much and how many times they are feeding. All this data can then be tracked on the Calf App on the iPad so I can monitor calf performance from the other side of the farm, my kitchen or even on holiday via the CalfCloud,” Karen says. “Intake decreases and less feeder visits often signals the early stages of an ill calf before we can physically see it. These calves go through a lot during their first few weeks of life –from being moved twice shortly after being born, the change from colostrum to powder and socialisation with other calves, making it essential we keep a close eye on their health.”

Along with data tracking, which also includes daily liveweight gain, the machine takes pressure off the labour intensities of rearing calves, with the ability to feed 120 calves at a time and self-clean and self-calibrate. It also weans calves based on the farm’s age-based weaning programme; downward step feeding starts at day 21 before calves are weaned at 56 days of age.

The perfect dairy cow

Along with developing their own calf rearing unit, the Halton’s have also been on the journey of breeding the perfect dairy cow by transitioning their herd to ProCROSS. This three-way composite breed of Swedish Red, Montbéliarde and Holstein genetics is keeping a significant amount of money in the business, says Tom.

“When we started the transition, people would tell me we’d lose the value of the cows. But at the end of the day, what you sell them for isn’t relevant. We’re looking at the big picture in terms of production,” says Tom. “Because of the cross, we get the genetic benefits of heterosis, which is the uplift of positive traits passed down to progeny.”

According to him, while they are milking at 9,500 litres a year, the big pay-out is the increase in fertility and heifers reaching average calving age at 23 months.

“In 2010, our pregnancy rate was at 22 percent. And today we are at 30 percent,” he says. “The breed more than pays for itself with more calves on the ground. The increase in fertility alone is worth £44,000 a year. No one see’s that money – we’re not getting a cheque for it. But it’s also not leaving the farm.”

While their breeding programme gives calves the genetic opportunity to go on and perform well, both Tom and Karen say this wouldn’t be possible without proper calf management in the rearing stage.

“Their health, their nutrition – all of this directly correlates into how they perform later in life,” Karen says. “Not only are we giving our calves a strong start, but the ability to reach their genetic potential.”

A focus on health

“There are a lot of happy cows in here,” Karen says as she walks through Halton Farms main cow shed. High ceilings, wide passage ways and daily cleaned sand beds are just one of the components to the operation’s herd health programme.

halton farm

Calves, which are housed in a dry, well ventilated building, are given clean straw beds in small batch pens that are disinfected between use. At 7-10 days of age, an intranasal is administered to help protect against respiratory disease. They are also later vaccinated against BVD, leptospirosis, IBR and Salmonella.

“We also pull groups of calves at random to test their immunoglobulin levels to make sure they are receiving adequate passive transfer from colostrum,” explains Karen.

Download our Farmers Guide to Housing for Young Calves

Feed for Growth provides practical advice, resources and tools to help you grow better cows. Our full range of Farmers Guides is available here.

 

Rear calves more hygienically with the new Urban Alma Pro

Farmers can now rear calves more hygienically and deliver any necessary specific feed additives into a target animal’s individual milk portion, thanks to the launch of a versatile new automatic feeding machine set up from Volac.

Launching the new Urban Alma Pro

Launched at UK Dairy Day (13th September 2017), the new Urban Alma Pro represents the very latest in computerised calf feeding technology and is capable of feeding up to 120 calves during the pre-weaned milk feeding period. This new calf feeder also incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfectant.

Urban Parallel Pro June 2017-4

“This new machine is a great step forward at a time when the industry is focusing on sustainable, high performance calf rearing. Helping to protect calves from teat-transmitted infections – thanks to an improved hygiene system that incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfection after every calf feed – and, uniquely, the ability to deliver the right dose of any necessary medications, such as electrolytes, to the right calf, at the right time, will be widely welcomed. The Urban Alma Pro also incorporates a range of other innovative features and benefits to help farmers rear better youngstock more efficiently,” said Jason Short from Volac.

He added that the new computerised feeder is equipped with the latest touch screen technology to give users a simple overview of calf health and welfare – alerting rearers to any management issues and allowing for timely intervention as necessary – and full WiFi connectivity to allow remote access to the system on and off the farm.

“The Urban Alma Pro simplifies effective, hygienic calf feeding and eases work load for the farmer. The calf milk replacer is mixed precisely with water and an in-line temperature sensor ensures the milk always arrives at the teat at the correct temperature. The machine recognises an individual calf’s ear tag when it enters the feeding station and allocates the correct milk portion and concentration accordingly. Once the calf has taken its feed the teat will re-track and be sprayed with cold water and a disinfectant solution. Machine hygiene status has also been enhanced to allow sanitisation with acid and alkali up to four times a day, which cleans and sterilises the feed lines and bowl.”

  Saving labour hours with automatic feeding

Volac calculates that compared with bucket feeding, the new machine will save producers 190 hours of labour time for every 120 calves reared.  Group feeding also saves on individual pen bedding preparation.

Calf rearers interested in the new machine can ask for a free initial consultation to establish building layout and appropriate siting. Customers can also call on Volac representatives to set up the calf feeding programme and milk concentration levels according to individual requirements.

Guide to Calf Rearing Systems

Computerised feeders – the real benefits

This month we’re going to take a closer look at computerised calf feeding systems. Quite simply they combine all the strengths of the alternative systems to choose from – bucket feeding and automatic machine, whilst minimising weaknesses, says Volac’s Jackie Bradley. That’s why computerised systems are becoming increasingly popular amongst both beef and dairy producers in the UK as well as throughout Europe.

auto feeder cropped

 

COMPUTERISED FEEDING SYSTEMS ARE AN INVESTMENT

Computerised feeding systems may appear expensive, however payback is relatively rapid when you consider the labour cost of rearing a calf to weaning is approximately one sixth of that compared to twice a day bucket feeding. Time is money.

Table 1: Labour per calf to weaning 

Feeding system  Minutes /calf to weaning 
Twice a day bucket  115 
Automatic machine   20 
Computer controlled   20 

Source: Volac  

The whole concept of computerised calf feeding is about labour saving whilst delivering milk consistently to the calves on a more natural little and often basis; these systems are designed to introduce flexibility into the day and reduce the ‘man hours’ spent on mechanical tasks such a mixing milk and carrying buckets, thereby offering more time to observe the calves. They also deliver a fully controlled rearing system which is tailored to provide your calves with the opportunity to express their real growth potential.

The latest technology also provides the opportunity to view the calf and calf feeder data at a glance on your mobile phone thanks to WiFi connectivity.

The latest computerised calf feeders – the benefits

  • Allows ad-lib performance with the cost control of a restricted system
  • Very low routine labour needs
  • Allows each individual calf to be fed according to a pre-set programme to meet individual needs
  • Consistent feeding – same concentration, same temperature, same portion size
  • Records actual daily milk intake per calf
  • Automated weaning curve which encourages early rumen development and improves calf efficiency
  • Alternatively, highly successful stepped weaning with minimal set-backs can be introduced
  • Optional automatic teat cleaning after every feed, potentially with disinfectant too
  • Self-cleaning
  • Access key data on your smartphone

What to look out for

High standards of stockmanship continue to be the key to successful calf rearing. We also advise that good housing – both drainage and ventilation are essential.

Find out more in our range of Farmers Guides.

We are offering a free pallet of Volac Milk Replacer and 0% finance available for all feeder purchases before 31st December 2017 (GB ONLY).

If you currently use a feeder and want to know if you are getting the most/best results out of it or if you would like to know more about investing in a computerised feeding system and how it will fit in to your unit, then discuss your requirements with your Volac Business Manager

For more information contact us on Freephone 0800 919808 or email enquire@volac.com.

Protect your Calves against the cold with a Calf Jackets Protocol

AS TEMPERATURES START TO FALL, extra attention is Needed to protect calves from the effects of the cold, especially calves under 3 weeks of age.

calf jackets.jpg

Calf jackets help to keep calves warm, dry and healthy, in the winter when temperatures fall below 15°C. In colder conditions more energy is used to keep warm and therefore less energy is used on growth, development and supporting a strong immune function. Calf jackets do not replace good husbandry – they are an added benefit.

FFG-Environment-Thermal neutral zone

In our new Calf Jackets protocol farmer guide, we highlight areas which are important to consider when purchasing calf jackets and tips on developing your own calf jacket protocol in order to get the full benefit from using jackets.

Calf jackets should be used in combination with good management practises such as providing the calves with a draft free environment, deep dry bedding helping the calf to maintain growth and support a strong immune function, reducing the risk of setbacks in calf health during periods of cold weather.

There are some things to be aware of when purchasing calf jackets. The jackets themselves must:

  • Have breathable material
  • Be water resistant or waterproof
  • Be machine washable.
  • Have adjustable straps and fasteners with low maintenance.

Once you have decided to use calf jackets, it is very important to use them properly to maximise their potential. A calf jacket protocol should be set to inform everyone working on the farm what is expected and what should be done. Jamie Robertson has helped us create a Farmer Guide calf jackets protocol which you can download here. 

The Feed for Growth programme focuses on 3 key areas – Health, Nutrition and Environment. We have a range of Farmer Guides available to help you, covering everything from dealing with common health problems to feeding and housing your calves.

Optimising Calf Nutrition to Drive Healthy Performance: Part 2

Recent research is helping dairy farmers re-think calf milk feeding strategies for optimum health and lifetime performance. In an interview with British Dairying, Volac nutritionist Ian Watson discusses the importance of feeding high quality protein to young ruminant animals.

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DEVelopments in Calf nutrition

The British dairy industry is starting to wake up to the fact that it may have been underfeeding calves for quite some time, but the next step change will be driven by improvements in the quality of pre-weaning diets fed to the nation’s calves.

Download our Farmers Guide – How Much to Feed the Pre-Weaned Calf

OPTIMISE PROTEIN QUALITY

Volac Nutritionist Ian Watson believes that the main priority for dairy heifer calf nutritionists is to convince farmers to feed these valuable milking herd replacements appropriately.

“It is also important to recognise that although water and energy are the first limiting nutrients for the young calf, feeding high quality protein is also crucial. After water and energy, protein is the next most important nutritional component of the diet,” he says.

“The nutritional requirement for protein in the young ruminant animal – whose digestive system in the first few weeks of life is very similar to a mono-gastric – is better referenced by looking at the availability and digestibility of the amino acids supplied. Breaking this down further, there are essential amino acids that cannot be synthesised by the pre-ruminant calf and these must be supplied in the diet in sufficient quantity to ensure the maintenance of normal bodily functions and growth,” Mr Watson points out.

He adds that the absolute amount of each amino acid (in g/day) required by the pre-ruminant calf will depend on a number of factors including liveweight, health status, energy supply and the target daily liveweight gain.

“When formulating diets the term most commonly used to describe protein is ‘crude protein’ – but this is simply a measure of the nitrogen (N) content of animal feed multiplied by a conversion factor of 6.25. Sadly, there is no correlation between the amino acid content of a feed and the crude protein declaration on the label,” he says.

HIGH QUALITY MILK REPLACERS

Volac is always examining how best to ensure its milk replacers meet the crucial balance between energy level, ideal amino acid balance and cost efficiency.

Find out more about the Volac range of Calf Milk Replacers.

“With the current volatility in dairy markets (dairy protein supply and cost), there is increasing industry-wide interest in replacing a proportion of the dairy protein in milk replacers with vegetable protein. However, when precision formulating diets using non-dairy proteins, both the physical and nutritional attributes of the alternative protein sources must be taken into account,” Mr Watson says.

The Feed for Growth Programme provides practical advice, resources and support to help farmers grow better cows. Find out more today.

Optimising Calf Nutrition to Drive Healthy Performance: Part 1

Recent research is helping dairy farmers re-think calf milk feeding strategies for optimum health and lifetime performance. In an interview with British Dairying, Volac nutritionist Ian Watson talks about what the future holds.

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Optimising Calf Nutrition

The British dairy industry is starting to wake up to the fact that it may have been underfeeding calves for quite some time, but the next step change will be driven by improvements in the quality of pre-weaning diets fed to the nation’s calves. That’s the view of Volac nutritionist Ian Watson, who says the specialist young animal nutrition company is ready to meet the technical challenge.

“We know that feeding a good heifer calf up to 900g of milk replacer daily may be needed to meet optimum rearing targets – and absolutely crucial if you want to calve heifers down at 24 months. But more importantly, we also know feeding modern dairy calves to this level makes sound economic sense,” he says.

Mr Watson points to studies showing that calves gaining 800g a day have the potential to produce 450 litres more milk during their first lactation, compared with calves reared on a traditional system gaining only about 500g per day. “Research also shows that feeding higher milk replacer levels leads to fewer calves failing to reach a second lactation. So providing the necessary nutrition to sustain rapid growth rates (>750g per day) during the first two months of life should not only result in more efficient and economical heifer rearing, but also deliver greater lifetime milk output when these replacement animals join the milking herd,” he says.

 He adds that if milk replacer intakes are restricted, calves simply look for nutrition from the other feeds available and invariably this means eating more concentrates.

“But this can limit early growth because the rumen is not developed to efficiently digest solid starter feeds until around four weeks of age,” Mr Watson points out.

“Calves on a high quality, precision-formulated milk replacer are receiving a highly concentrated energy source – so much so that to achieve the same energy intake from a solid starter feed requires a dry matter intake 1.5 times that of the milk. What’s more, further research has shown that there is a large amount of important early life development in the pre-weaned phase. The development of both mammary cells and the gut – and metabolic programming – all take place during this crucial early life period, so feeding high levels of milk enables us to take full advantage. It’s also the time when feed conversion efficiency is at its highest.”

Download our Farmers Guide on how much to feed the pre-weaned calf

The importance of feeding calves more milk has also been supported by recent research at Harper Adams University, albeit with male calves. In this study with British Blue x Holstein and Holstein bull calves starting at 15.4 days old until weaning six weeks later, calves fed 150g/day more milk replacer were 5.6kg heavier on average at 12 weeks of age.

“The team at Harper noted that the calves fed higher levels of milk were healthier and had better faecal and coat bloom scores, concluding that this was possibly because their immune status was better. They have also stressed that across all the calf trials they have done, calves recording lower daily liveweight gains never catch up, which really does highlight the importance of the industry capitalising on this highly efficient early growth phase.”

Cold weather

FFG-Environment-Impact of cold stress

Mr Watson says that during cold weather, calves may need to be fed even more milk. “When temperatures fall below 15°C calves under three weeks of age need more feed to hit growth targets and boost immunity.

“Under mild weather conditions (15°C-25°C), for dairy calves to grow at an average of 750g per day in their first few weeks of life they need to be fed at least 750g of milk per day alongside dry feed and water.

“But when the temperature plummets you need to feed more. And if the temperature drops below freezing, daily energy requirements increase by up to 30%.”

He says that high moisture levels or draughts just exacerbate the problem. “In fact, draughts of just 5mph can make calves feel 8°-10°C colder,” he says.

Download our Farmers Guide to Protecting Young Calves from Cold Stress

Mr Watson stresses that it is vital that all newborn calves receive adequate good quality colostrum (at least three litres within two hours of birth), whatever the ambient temperature.

“When it comes to milk feeding in cold weather, you really need to step up the level of milk solids by 100g per day for every 10°C temperature drop below 20°C,” he advises.

“This is best achieved by feeding milk more frequently and, in fact, this only mimics natural feeding behaviour when the weather gets colder. If calves are given the choice they will feed at least three times a day – and if given free access to milk, possibly up to 10 times a day – drinking little and often. Keeping bedding plentiful, clean and dry is also important, and consider too the use of thermal calf jackets. By not taking measures to either keep calves warmer or increase nutrition during extended periods of cold weather, you could be compromising animal health through a reduced immune function and daily growth will also be reduced. And it’s important to remember too to maintain good milk intakes even if calves are scouring,” he adds.

Next week we will look more closely at the nutritional requirement for protein in calves and how to optimiSe protein quality.

The Feed for Growth Programme provides practical advice, resources and support to help farmers grow better cows. Find out more.

Visit Volac at UK Dairy Day

VOLAC HAS PLENTY GOING ON AT UK DAIRY DAY THIS YEAR – visit us in the new calf rearing zone, which Volac is sponsoring and is part of the event’s farmer ‘Knowledge Trail’, and on stand H221 on Wednesday 13th September to find out more.

Come and explore the latest product and service innovations from Volac – all developed to help you make your dairy farming business more efficient and sustainable.

NEW computerised calf feeder and free consultation

Urban Parallel Pro June 2017-4

Take advantage of the very latest technology: the new Urban Alma pro incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfection and the ability to deliver doses of medications to individual calves.

A versatile new computerised calf feeder will be unveiled at the event. The new Urban Alma Pro represents the very latest in calf feeding technology and is particularly innovative because it incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfection. This new machine is capable of feeding up to 120 calves during the pre-weaned milk feeding period.

This new machine is a great step forward at a time when the industry is focusing on sustainable, high performance calf rearing. Helping to protect calves from teat-transmitted infections – thanks to an improved hygiene system that incorporates automatic teat cleaning with disinfection after every calf feed – and, uniquely, the ability to deliver the right dose of any necessary medications, such as electrolytes, to the right calf, at the right time, will be widely welcomed. The Urban Alma Pro also incorporates a range of other innovative features and benefits to help farmers rear better youngstock more efficiently,” says Jason Short from Volac.

He adds that the new computerised feeder is equipped with the latest touch screen technology to give users a simple overview of calf health and welfare – alerting rearers to any management issues and allowing for timely intervention as necessary – and full WiFi connectivity to allow remote access to the system on and off the farm.

“The Urban Alma Pro simplifies effective, hygienic calf feeding and eases work load for the farmer. The calf milk replacer is mixed precisely with water and an in-line temperature sensor ensures the milk always arrives at the teat at the correct temperature. The machine recognises an individual calf’s ear tag or collar when it enters the feeding station and allocates the correct milk portion and concentration accordingly. Once the calf has taken its feed the teat will re-track and be sprayed with cold water and a disinfectant solution. Machine hygiene status has also been enhanced to allow sanitisation with acid and alkali up to four times a day, which cleans and sterilises the feed lines and bowl.”

Compared with bucket feeding, the new machine will save producers 190 hours of labour time for every 120 calves reared. Group feeding also saves on individual pen bedding preparation.

Calf rearers interested in the new machine can ask for a free initial consultation to establish building layout and appropriate siting. Customers can also call on Volac representatives to set up the calf feeding programme and milk concentration levels according to individual requirements.

LEARN how to rear HEALTHIER calves

At 11.30am and 1.30pm Volac nutritionist Ian Watson will be talking about how to rear healthier calves in the calf rearing zone, which Volac is sponsoring.

FREE grass silage appraisals

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With the important role of good quality silage in milk production, we’ll be offering farmers the opportunity to sign up for a number of free grass silage appraisals.

Available as part of Volac’s Cut to Clamp initiative launched earlier this year, which aims to help farmers produce consistently better silage by focusing on best practice methods for making and feeding silage, the appraisals will take the form of on-farm consultations with a silage expert.

They include an on-farm audit of the six key stages of cutting, wilting, harvesting, treating, clamping and feeding – aimed at identifying practical ways in which silage feed value and keeping quality can be improved.

“We realised there was a clear need for practical ways to improve silage-making after conducting a survey of over 100 dairy farmers before the start of the season,” Volac product manager, Jackie Bradley, explains.

“In the survey, nearly 80% of farmers felt they could make better grass silage, with just 19% saying they felt completely in control of how well their grass silage turned out after sealing the clamp. More significantly, the results also highlighted some significant shortcomings in silage-making techniques.

Good quality silage plays a crucial role in the sustainability of dairy farm businesses, and these are no-obligation, on-farm consultations. We’re able to offer a limited number at the event, and farmers can come to the stand to check availability throughout the day.

As well as recommendations for improving grass silage, Volac will also be offering timely tips for making maize silage, as the timing of the event coincides with preparations for forage maize harvest on many farms.

“This again follows further survey results on maize silage-making carried out last season, which also revealed shortcomings,” Mrs Bradley says.

“Despite 71% of respondents rating preventing aerobic spoilage as their biggest challenge when preserving maize silage, not all respondents were fully utilising all available methods to prevent it,” Mrs Bradley adds.

Enjoy UK Dairy Day. We look forward to welcoming you to stand H221.

24 Hours in Farming is back this year

24 hours in farming is an opportunity for UK agriculture to shout about the industry, what it does and how proud we all are to be a part of it. This years event starts at 5am on Thursday 10th August 2017 and anyone can take part! All you need to do is post on any social media platform using the hashtag #Farm24.

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Social media provides a great tool to spread the message about the work farmers do day in, day out, and we’ll be participating in this year’s event across all of our own social media channels.

Find out more about 24 Hours in Farming

Tell your story

Last years event was a huge success with #Farm24 being seen 112 million times and this year promises to be bigger and better!

Anyone taking part in 24 Hours in Farming 2017 is urged to not only take to social media on 10 August, but also to get out and speak to the public about what they do. This might be an on farm event or even an interview for local radio, but whatever you do let’s make sure we all take this opportunity to highlight just how hard working and dedicated UK farmers are.

Taking part in 24 Hours in Farming

Volac are proud to once again to be participating in this unique event.

We won’t ever take farmers for granted. Everybody at Volac simply wants to say thank you. We all acknowledge the tremendous debt of gratitude owed to the nation’s food producers who work so hard 24/7, in all weathers, to deliver such a fantastic array of high quality produce. To show just how much we appreciate all this hard work we will be participating in 24 Hours in Farming across all our social media channels – watch out for members of our team offering their personal thanks on the day!



We hope you will all join us on 10th August.

Combating common calf diseases

Pneumonia and scour are among the most common calf diseases.

FFG-Health-Disease from bacteria

This week’s blog investigates their causes and how to prevent these common calf diseases.

PNEUMONIA

Pneumonia is the biggest killer of calves from the dairy herd, the highest risk period being during the first 12 weeks of life. Lung damage in affected calves will also reduce productivity through reduced growth rates and treatment costs – medicines, labour, vet costs. Even after the animals have apparently recovered losses can occur in dairy heifers through reduced performance in first lactation and in beef calves, long term impact on weight gain and carcass grading.

 

Causes

Pneumonia is caused by a mixture of viruses and bacteria. In most cases there are management factors that make the calf more vulnerable to disease.
• Poor ventilation – the bacteria and viruses which cause pneumonia survive better in moist, stale air
• Wind speed – young calves exposed to moderate draughts will use too much energy to keep warm and are more prone to disease
• Cold stress – young calves will get cold in standard UK winter temperatures
• Underfeeding – especially in cold weather. Calves will cope with low temperatures if extra nutrition are provided
• Weaning management – calves need to be gradually weaned so that nutrition intake from hard feed is sufficient prior to stopping milk feeding
• Mixing age groups – allows disease to spread from older to younger calves

Prevention

1. Pneumonia control should be discussed with your vet
2. Reduce the risks by:
• Improving air quality in cattle sheds
• Preventing cold stress in young calves
• Ensuring sufficient calorie intake in cold weather, step up milk replacer rate

Download our Farmers Guide to Calf Pneumonia

Scour

Scour is the most common disease of dairy bred calves; it is caused by a combination of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can spread from calf to calf, for example rotavirus, E. coli, coccidia and cryptosporidia. An effective scour prevention program can be simplified into two areas – maximising calf immune function and minimising their exposure to disease.

 Causes

• A dirty calving environment can expose new born calves to scour causing pathogens
• Low colostrum intake
• Underfeeding increases susceptibility to disease
• An unhygienic environment due to overcrowding, mixing of age groups, using pens for young calves without regular cleaning and disinfection and spreading infection from older to younger calves on the calf rearer’s clothing

 Prevention

• Discussing the cause with your vet – is it infection or nutritional? and then preventative strategies, for example vaccination
• Making sure your calves are receiving enough quality colostrum a minimum of 10% of birthweight ideally within the first two hours, tested with a colostrometer or refractometer.
• Keeping the calving area clean and hygienic
• Cleaning up the udder if the calf is to suckle its dam
• Maintaining a clean environment for young calves – clean and disinfect pens between batches and prevent contact between animals of different ages
• Making sure each calf receives adequate nutrition to promote immune status

Download our Farmers Guide to Calf Scour