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.