‘20 minutes, morning and evening, now looks after the calves – we save 21 hours every week’
Farming in Boherduff, Co. Galway, Kevin and his daughter Ciara Callanan operate a 200 cow Holstein Friesian dairy herd. Speaking on his enterprise, Kevin explains:
“I farm in partnership with my daughter Ciara on a 330ac farm. We operate a combination of spring and autumn-calving, leaning more towards spring-calving.
“It’s always been dairy on the farm. We supply Aurivo Co-op with our milk.”
Kevin is a second and Ciara is a third-generation dairy farmer, with the family having milked cows on the farm for over 60 years. The Callanans have installed a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder back in 2018, which feeds and monitors up to 140 calves on an individual basis.
Why choose an automatic feeder?
Speaking to Kevin and Ciara, they mention how their farming system has been revolutionised since installing a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder.
The control unit is complete with an innovative touch screen display, dual hoppers and mixing bowls. Kevin explained:
The main reason for choosing a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder was the user friendliness of the machine. We also felt that the twin hopper would allow us to feed the bulls and heifers separately.
“Generally, we keep 60 heifer calves and keep the bull calves on the farm for about three weeks. We could have up to 100 calves on the feeder at any one time. It also looked like an easy keep machine from the outside, in terms of keeping it clean,” Kevin added.
In 2018, the Callanans built a purpose built calf shed. As part of their plan to maximise efficiencies and create a streamlined process, they installed 42 JFC Agri calf cribs.
Ciara stated: “After building the calf shed, we installed 42 JFC Agri calf cribs. We find that they are very user friendly as they are lighweight, durable and easy to manoeuvre.
A big benefit of them is the fact that you can wash and disinfect them individually for each calf. The calf crib gives the calf a great start to life for the first 10 days when we are giving them milk individually.
“The automatic calf feeder and the calf cribs are just two ways that make life easier for us here on the farm and we are all for that.”
Both Ciara and Kevin have seen a number of very positive benefits since installing the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder.
1. Reduced labour requirement
Ciara feels that the feeder is massive in terms of the amount of labour that it saves. She said:
“For the first 10 days, we feed the baby calves individually and then they are put on the automatic feeder. Once they are put on the feeder it’s just so easy to look after them.”
2. Saving time
Kevin believes that one of the biggest benefits of the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder is the amount of time that it has saved both himself and Ciara when it comes to looking after the calves.
20 minutes, morning and evening, now looks after the calves. The JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder saves us three hours every day – that’s over 20 hours every week between morning and evening.
“We don’t have to hand-mix the milk replacer, clean feeders or make sure each calf is getting the right amount of milk – the calf feeder looks after all of this for us. The automatic calf feeder has made life much easier for us.”
Kevin went on to add: “Calving is much easier because you know that once they are set up on the machine they are getting what they need, when they need it.
“They’re not hungry during the day waiting for their feed, they can get their milk when they want which is a massive benefit of the feeder.”
3. Identifying potential problems on time
Kevin believes that the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder allows them to implement corrective measures on time when it comes to calf health.
“The first thing a calf will do is reduce its milk intake when it’s not feeling 100%. On the display panel of the automatic calf feeder, we know when a calf isn’t performing or if there is something wrong when a calf’s intake is constantly reduced.
“You’ll see it on the machine before you see it in the calf. It means that we can take action on-time and vastly reduce the impact on the calf and potential impact on the herd,” said Kevin.
4. Stress-free weaning & improved calf performance
Both Ciara and Kevin have noticed a massive improvement in terms of the performance of their calves since installing a JFC Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder. Ciara explained: “At weaning time, there’s a noticeable difference in the quality of the calves. They are much more even in terms of size.
“Weaning is seamless; The feeder reduces the calves’ milk intake gradually and once they are completely weaned they don’t go back to the feeder to look for milk. It isn’t a massive shock to the system as they are gradually weaned off the milk.”
5. Ease of Use
Speaking on the general day-to-day operation of the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder, Kevin feels that it is very simple to use.
“We look at the screen first thing in the morning, to see how the calves are doing. We can see how often they’ve drank, when they have drank and if they haven’t drank at all.
“We just have to keep the hopper topped up. It can hold about three bags of milk replacer which is very handy,” said Kevin.
Before Vs. After Comparison
The ease of monitoring the calves has been attributed to the success of machine, according to Ciara. She states:
“We would have bucket fed the calves before getting in the automatic feeder. One of the biggest benefits of the automatic feeder over bucket feeding is that you’ve a better reared calf.
“You’re not over feeding or under feeding a calf because you know exactly what they’ve consumed. On the feeder you can also see the speed that the calf drinks its milk.
“It really benefits the slow drinking calf because they are still able to get all their milk allocation,” Ciara added.
JFC Agri Evolution App
JFC Agri also offers a downloadable app for your phone that allows the operator to remotely monitor the Evolution automatic calf feeder range.
Each calf’s feed performance is consistently monitored on a touch screen display and this information is also available anytime, anywhere via the JFC AGRI Evolution Online App or web portal.
Ciara and Kevin are planning to start using the app once the parlour is complete as they feel it would benefit their system. The Callanans will have access to all the information on the display screen of their feeder on their phones.
Ciara and Kevin are very happy with the help, guidance and support that they have and continue to receive from the team at JFC Agri, as Kevin explains:
The JFC Agri team offers great insight & provide a great service. They have given us some really great advice and help, especially when I was planning the layout of the calf shed in terms of what would work best.
“It made a massive difference being able to see two to three fully developed designs that would suit our system.
“JFC Agri also designed a trolley for us that we could slide in under the calf cribs so that we could bring the calf crib to the calving pen, collect the calf and bring it back to the calf shed.
They are always coming up with new ideas. The back-up service is excellent and I don’t say that lightly.
The Callanans believe that both the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder and JFC Agri calf cribs are an affordable investment.
“We have been very happy with our investment. They understand farming and what farmers need and continue to create products that are innovative and offer real solutions to real problems that we as farmers are challenged with.”
The Callanans have expansion on their minds. At the moment, they are building a new, state-of-the-art, 24-unit BouMatic milking parlour with all the extras, upgrading it from a 12-unit parlour.
Kevin stated: “We now have the facilities and the capacity to lean even more towards spring-calving.
“The calf shed can handle 150 calves. Long-term, we would like to be able to milk 250 cows.”