Automatic Calf Feeder Catching On Fast

Canadian dairies are kicking the calf bucket habit in favor of CalfRail, an automatic feeder from Foerster-Technik. As a result, they are getting healthier calves with less labor. Introduced earlier this year in Europe, CalfRail is catching on fast with 25 already in place on 20 farms in Canada. One will soon be up and running in the U.S., according to Jan Ziemerink, Foerster-Technik North America.

 

   “A Canadian dairy farmer bought the first one in the world when the company was just introducing it in Germany,” says Ziemerink. “It keeps track of consumption, drinking speed, time of feeding, and will send an alert if the calf is not drinking.”

 

   The CalfRail is controlled and supplied by a VARIO automatic feeder. It mixes a fresh individual ration for each calf, collects data on the calf, and stores it in the cloud for easy access.

 

   As the feeding unit travels down a rail, it delivers up to 2 1/2 liters per feeding and up to 12 liters per day for 8 to 9 weeks. The last 14 days calves are on the system, the feeder automatically begins to cut back on the volume per day, encouraging them to switch to water and solid rations.

 

   Feeding times are preset, normally 5 times a day. However, the system calculates consumption, and if a calf has had enough, it can skip a feeding. Likewise, if a calf misses a feeding, the feeding unit goes back to feed it again.

 

   “When the CalfRail starts up in the morning, the boiler heats up and the system does a pre-rinse to warm the lines with hot water,” says Ziemerink. “Hot water is constantly circulating around the milk line, so it is always at body temperature at the nipple.”

 

   Sanitation is simple with automatic self-cleaning after each feeding. In addition, there are 4 circulation cleanings each day. At the end of the day, the nipple is removed by hand and cleaned.

 

   Originally introduced for single calf per pen feeding, the CalfRail DUO has been added for paired housing. A single configuration CalfRail can feed up to 50 calves and a DUO up to 100. Prices vary by the configuration and the number of calves that can be fed.

 

   “A 32-meter CalfRail for 32 calves with the VARIO feeder and mixing unit and a hot water boiler will be about $35,000, while a 64-calf unit will cost between $52,000 and $55,000,” says Ziemerink.

 

   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Foerster-Technik North America, 490 Sheldon Dr., Unit 9-10, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada N1T 2C1 (ph 519 239-9756; jan.ziemerink@foerster-technik.com; www.foerster-technik.com).