The Kennedy family farm is now home to a 135-cow spring-calving Friesian herd since switching from their previous calf-to-beef system in 2015. Based in Ballyneety, Co. Limerick, Michael manages his herd on a land base of 220ac, along with his father, Gerard.
Until January 2022, the father-son duo had been feeding their calves manually, and it was becoming increasingly labour intensive. The Kennedys wanted to find a solution to reduce labour while allowing them to increase their calf numbers.
Michael is passionate about the welfare of his calves and the upgrade of his calf-rearing facility in 2021 was to ensure his calves get off to the best start in life.
Before upgrading, Michael contacted his local Volac business manager, Sharon O’Donoghue, who assessed his calf-rearing facilities and suggested a new layout for the shed – which Michael is very pleased with.
“I called Sharon to ask her opinion. She visited the farm, assessed the shed and proposed a new layout,” said Michael.
“We needed a viable option that would reduce the labour of manual feeding and that meant considering the introduction of an automatic calf feeder to the farm. We took Sharon’s advice on board and delighted we did.”
The upgraded facilities have allowed for the installation of a new three-station Volac Urban automatic calf feeder, which can rear 90 calves comfortably. This year, the feeder will ease the pressure on labour and allow the Kennedys to rear more calves on the farm.
When consideration is being given to the installation of automatic calf feeders, it should be viewed as a way of taking the variables out of the calf-rearing process, but it must also recognise that a high level of supervision, good hygiene standards and management still play a vital role to success.
“The new feeder gives us peace of mind in terms of bringing greater control and consistency to the milk feeding period, and it will allow us to focus on other aspects of calf rearing such as nutrition and welfare,” said Michael.
Calf nutrition and performance
Each year, Michael vaccinates the cows against scour and all calves receive transition milk for the first 10 days to ensure they receive sufficient antibodies. Calves are then fed Golden Maverick Triple A calf milk replacer by Volac.
Feeding calf milk replacer gives greater reassurance to Michael in terms of quality and consistency. Golden Maverick Triple A calf milk replacer by Volac is designed to provide a consistent level of vitamins and minerals, tailored specifically for the calf’s growth and nutritional needs.
“We have been feeding Golden Maverick Triple A calf milk replacer by Volac for five years now and we wouldn’t use anything else, it is tried and trusted, and it always yields great calves,” said Michael.
“We first opted for Volac calf milk replacer because Volac has a great name locally and the follow up service from Sharon is second to none, both in terms of technical calf-rearing advice and feeder advice.
Michael’s calves are offered ad-lib hay after one-week of age and are offered a calf starter ration at two-weeks of age to help develop their rumen. The calves are weaned gradually off the feeder after 71 days.
“In terms of growth rates and overall calf health and performance, I credit this to good hygiene practices and housing facilities, as well as using a calf milk replacer that provides all the nutrition our calves need – it’s a no brainer to feed Golden Maverick Triple A calf milk replacer,” Michael concluded.
For more information contact your local Volac business manager by clicking here.