Autofeeder calf management questions

By on May 3, 2021
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What is a recommended routine for monitoring calves on my autofeeder system?

  1. Walk the pen and note any calves with rapid breathing, scours or that are lethargic. Make a note of these calves.
  2. Next check the data on the autofeeder. There are several locations where one can find this information.  They include: Handheld at the feeder station, Kalbmanager (older Foerster Technik software), Calf Cloud (on your computer) and Calf App Go on your phone or tablet. Locate all calves with drinking speeds  (liters/min) that are 80% of the previous three days.
  3. Develop a protocol for treating calves with scours or respiratory disease.
  4. Check out the post on on using the feeders

Quantities vs. Limitations

Quantity refers to how much a calf is permitted to drink within a day (from midnight to midnight).   Limitations refers to how much a calf is permitted to drink during one visit to the feeder.   This prevents the calf from consuming a very large meal during one visit to the feeder.   The 40 fit program is designed to allow the calf to drink as much milk as it want to consume in one day.  However, we use limitations to restrict them to consuming about 2L every two hours.   Typically, in North America we recommend the 40 fit program for about 28 days and then begin reducing milk in a step down fashion to encourage consumption of the starter.    When farms don’t use the 40 fit program they may restrict how much the calf can consume in one day.  We don’t recommend limiting intake to less than 8L/day as some calves may consume this within 12 hours and then will be hungry the rest of the day and it may encourage cross sucking.   Limitations are also specified as a minimum and maximum.  The maximum is normally 2 to 2.5L.  The minimum is a first few days 1.0 liter so calf gets used the feeder after that 1.5 liters or it is calculated by dividing the quantity by 20 hours.  The minimums requires the calf to “wait” a certain period of time before returning to the feeder.

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.