2015 - Volume #39, Issue #3, Page #35[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Calf Feeding System Saves Time, Improves Health
Frank Rhinehart, of Phillipsburg, Mo., has been selling the nipples with 30 in. of pvc tubing for more than two decades, after seeing the system during a forage tour in New Zealand.
“It’s so much easier and saves a tremendous amount of time,” Rhinehart says.
Initially, he was concerned that the group feeding might increase scours, but after trying it out, he found that it wasn’t any more of a problem than with bottle-feeding. Plus, being able to check out the calves while they are busy drinking provides the perfect opportunity for early detection and treatment.
Setting up is simple, he says. Start with a clean plastic barrel and drill 3/4-in. holes 2 ft. from the ground.
“They have to be a certain height so the calf has its neck stretched out,” Rhinehart says. Combined with a hard nipple that makes the calf suck harder, more saliva is produced to balance the pH in the stomach, which helps prevent scours.
Insert the tubing firmly in the nipple as far as possible before pulling the nipple through the hole in the barrel to lock it in place.
An important key is to have more nipples than calves, Rhinehart emphasizes, so that weaker calves have access to other nipples if they get pushed away. Customers typically space 15 to 18 nipples around the barrel to feed 12 calves, for example.
After the calves drink, producers simply add water to the barrel, which cleans out the tubing/nipples when the calves drink later on. (As a side benefit, calves tend to suck on the nipples instead of each other between feedings.) A lid on the barrel prevents debris from falling in, and the barrel can be rinsed out more thoroughly when needed.
For calves that don’t catch on how to suck right away, Rhinehart suggests training them individually with a 5-gal. bucket.
Besides saving time, the system has other benefits.
“They like to be together, and if they have grass or calf starter, that allows the calf to be like it would be on its mother out in the pasture - learning to eat grass while suckling its mother,” Rhinehart says. “In this system they have milk, grass and calf starter - it’s much more natural, wholesome and less stressful than hutch feeding.”
He sells the nipple/tubing sets for $5/each (only in lots of 20). The nipples last for years if protected from the sun after feeding is finished, but the tubing should be replaced each season.
As the only U.S. vendor for the system, Rhinehart has sold to mostly small dairy producers all across the country.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Frank Rhinehart, Brush Creek Farm, 16398 Hwy. C., Phillipsburg, Mo. 65722 (ph 417 589-8010; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.brushcreekfarm.com).
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