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.

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“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.

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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

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.

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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.