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

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