CalfBlog FAQ

Welcome to the CalfBlog FAQ section. Here you will find relevant information and assistance on calf rearing.

General calf questions

I have a calf facility with open side walls and curtains. There is significant “natural” ventilation when the curtains are down. Why do I need a mechanical ventilation system?

Some of the newer facility designs with open side walls facilitate natural ventilation. However, there are many times during the day (and night) when the wind is not blowing. During these times poor-quality air from the accumulation of ammonia and various airborne bacteria and virus can accumulate in the area immediately around the calf. Mechanical ventilation systems, such as the positive pressure tube system or fans should be included in the facility design which bring fresh air into the facility 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Seek professional assistance to design these systems based upon your environmental conditions unique to your farm. See the following resource for more information on ventilating calf facilities. https://thedairylandinitiative.vetmed.wisc.edu/home/housing-module/replacement-housing/

Why is more than four quarts of milk or milk replacer desirable for the calf during the first weeks of life?

In desirable weather conditions when the temperature is 40oF (4oC)or less, 4 quarts provides barely enough energy to meet the calf’s maintenance requirements. As a result, there is nothing left to support growth. During colder weather, the calf must mobilize their limited amounts of body fat to stay warm. In such cases the body fat of the calf can drop to less than 5% which provides little reserves of energy. Feeding more milk or milk replacer enables the calf to grow earlier in life and support improved resistance to disease. Although cost/day may be higher, cost/unit of body weight gain is less. It is important to remember that starter intake does not contribute much to meeting the calf’s nutrient requirements until they are 6 weeks of age. Most calves will consume more than eight quarts of milk or milk replacer /day by 10 days of age. Higher milk intakes are also more readily achieved with autofeeder systems where the calf can consumer multiple smaller meals in each day.

Autofeeder calf management questions

When can calves be introduced to the autofeeder?

The primary criteria for deciding when to place calves on the autofeeder is… when the calf is very vigorous and has a strong appetite. In rare cases this can be as early as a few days of age and on some farms it may be two weeks. A strong dry cow program, clean and comfortable calving area and prompt feeding of colostrum that is high in immune globulins (antibodies) and low in bacteria counts is an absolute essential. Feeding the mom’s colostrum and feeding colostrum for several feedings are all added things to have a stronger calf. A reasonable goal is 3 to 7 days of age.

How should I train calves to the autofeeder?

On the day that they are to move to the group pen, calves should be hand fed their morning meal by nipple bottle. The liquid diet should be the same as used in the autofeeder. Lead the calf to the feeding station nipple and activate the pump to start the milk flow. Be gentle and patient. It must be a favorable experience. It also helps to introduce more than one calf to the feeder on the same day. If there are older calves in the pen, calves learn from their peers in the pen and may not require another intervention. If the calf has not consumed any milk by the next morning, they can be led to the feeder again. Be careful not to lead them to the feeder too often, or you will train them that a person must lead them to the feeder for milk.

Autofeeder operation FAQ

How can I check calves quickly on handheld?

Press button # 5. Calves with the most alarms will be on top of the list. Press button #4 and you can search the handheld to locate any calf you want.

The green light is blinking on the handheld. How can I find the warnings?

Press the “C” button and the warning will be displayed. Press the right arrow button to make sure there are not any more warnings. When you are not sure what the warnings mean refer to the manual or take a picture of the warning and send to the technician.

There is a calibration warning on the screen. What action should I take?

If you see a calibration warning on the handheld screen, press the “enter Key” and it will identify the which component needs to be calibrated. Make sure there are not any other calibration warnings. If warnings continue to be shown, check the milk powder (MP) outlet and make sure the fly screen does not touch the hose. (If the hose touches the fly screen (the door) it will cause errors in weighing the powder as it is added. Go to diagnosis and recalibrate the scale using instructions in the manual. If this does not solve the problem contact the technician.