When it comes to feeding your calves, there are many different options on the market. Figuring out what is best for you and your farm is important and it is good to think about things like costs, what works on your farm best and maintenance. We will try to break down the pros and cons of each different type of feeding system to give you a summary of each option to look at.
There are some benefits to using a trough bucket such as being less labour intensive. It is easier to clean and it will take less time to feed the calves.
The use of troughs has decreased over recent times, mostly due to the fact that the calves heads are aimed down, and they can take large gulps of milk.
This can cause risk of “Rumen drinkers”. Rumen drinkers is caused by the dysfunction of the esophageal groove, and it results in ruminal acidosis in calves on a liquid diet. It may also be harder for farmers to check on each individual calfs milk intake as it allows larger more dominant calves to overpower the smaller ones.
Teat buckets in individual feeding systems are very popular for many reasons, firstly it is easy to assess each calf on a daily basis, for instance checking their milk intakes and adjusting each calfs feeding amounts due to age, looking for signs of scour and overall health. It is also easier for the calves to learn to drink as their heads are up.
The downside of this form of feeding is that it is labour intensive and on most farms the teats are being used too long. There can be a build up of bacteria on the inside of the teats which can cause health issues in young calves and due care should be taken to clean out the teats thoroughly on a regular basis.
This method is great when you want to feed a group of similar aged/sized calves at the same time. With the positioning of the milk bar and the slow drinking teats, this is more of a natural way that a calf would drink from a cow. Slow drinking with its head raised.With calves drinking slower, they get a better saturation, more saliva and less likely to have naval suckling from other calves.
The fact that these teats are tighter for slow drinking, you may find that milk intake goes down. Furthermore the teats are more expensive to replace than normal bucket teats so this may cause more expense if regularly changing. Always keep in mind to regularly clean out the valves and teats to reduce risk of spreading disease within the batch.
Finally the automatic feeder. The automatic feeder is less time consuming than other feeding options. Once initially set up, you can program your feeding schedule and know that it will accurately dispense the correct concentration of milk and at the right temperature.
There are some things to keep in mind if thinking of buying an automatic feeder. They can be quite costly, also they must be regularly calibrated as if the machine is moved to be cleaned out, or tampered with at all the calibration can be off, which could result in too weak or too concentrated of a feed which can cause health issues in the calves.
It is also important that although it is automatic and saving labour, you must still be as vigilant with checking your calves daily to ensure there are no signs of sickness as it may be tempting to think that going by the monitor or app on your phone everything looks fine, although if you lose a day from not spotting early signs of sickness in a young calf it can have a large impact on the recovery of that animal.
In conclusion there are no right or wrong feeding systems to use. These are individual to each farmer and his farm. If you are feeding milk at the correct concentration, amount and temperature with good hygiene then any of the above systems can be used. It is important just to remember the downsides of each alternative and to combat these accordingly to give your calves the best possible outcome.
All of our milk replacers are tried and tested in all of the above feeding methods whether they’re bucket fed, teat or automatic feeder. The Eringold brand of milk replacers are packed full of quality ingredients to ensure the calves have enough energy and proteins to optimize their full growth potential. High levels of milk proteins along with a balanced amino acid profile ensure high digestibility of the product. Calf health is also enhanced with the inclusion of Schils Protection Plus in all the Eringold Range. This is a specifically selected blend of ingredients all of which helps protect the young calf from digestive upsets and keep the immune system healthy whilst also increasing the appetite of the calf resulting in earlier and higher intake of concentrates. For more info on our milk replacers please take a look at: https://eringoldltd.com/categories/calf/
If you would like any further information on calf rearing, or on our products please either contact us via our contact us page at https://eringoldltd.com/contact/