Calf Feeders

The Top Eight Characteristics Of Profitable Feeders

Automatic milk feeder

Computerized drinking of calf milk replacer

Deciding on what type of feeder you want to buy can be a complicated decision. You can buy calf feeders in all shapes and sizes. You have to decide for yourself whether it is worth the investment, because if you invest in such a device it usually is an investment for five till ten years.

With this article the decision process is made a bit easier because a good and profitable feeder needs to have at least some, if not all of these characteristics.

1) Save time and labor.

One of the first things you think of; will it save me time and labor? How do I feed my calves until now? How much time do I need for that right now and what will it be when I buy this equipment?

Those are questions you want to have answers for because it will allow you to do other things that also need your precious time. A good calf feeder will work without the need of you being present.

2) Easy to work with.

It should be designed in such a way that every step of its working process is logical and easy to understand. If you have to consult the manual again and again, it definitively isn’t a good designed device.

For the calves it is even more important that they can learn quickly how the feeder works. It should if it were, invite calves to use the feeder. After a couple of days about 90% of the calves should have learned how the device works and don’t need your help anymore.

3) Easy to clean, disinfect and rinse.

Especially milk feeders can be big sources of infection. If some calves carry a disease, it can easily be spread by saliva from their mouth. When this saliva gets in contact with the nipple it can cause the nipple being infected with bacteria. Since the nipple is a warm and wet environment, it is ideal for bacterial growth.

Therefore it is important that cleaning and disinfecting should be easy to do. Things to watch for are: How clean and disinfected is the feeder after the cleansing. How many times does it have to be done? Is it automated?

4) Easy to maintain and low costs in maintenance.

Maintaining the equipment should be an easy thing to do. If you have to take half of the feeder apart to be able to perform maintenance, it isn’t a good device. You also don’t want to perform maintenance every week. Replacing something like a nipple is OK, but not anything more.

If you have to perform maintenance, you don’t want to have to replace parts of the feeder every single time. That would be a sign that it is not designed well and would have a high price tag in maintenance.

5) Robust and simple in construction.

A calf feeder needs to be robust because as the calves grow, the device has to endure more. If it is built with a simple construction, there are fewer parts that have the chance of getting broken. Therefore, with fewer components you have less maintenance and lower costs.

If you look around at machines and devices in general, the ones that are made in a simple way are usually the best designed and have the lowest costs, both in purchase and maintenance.

6) Price/performance ratio.

Most people only look at the price when they buy a machine or device, but that is not always the best choice. You also have to look at things like that are mentioned above to learn which device is the cheapest in the long run.

So, the things to look for are: What does it cost me now and what will I get in return for that? You may find that the most expensive device can be the cheapest after some years. If you look at it in such a way, you are definitively better off.

7) Easy accessible for all animals, including the low ranking calves.

As in every herd, you have a ranking. The boldest animals are always first in the feeder and sometimes prevent the low ranking calves from drinking or eating. A good calf feeder is providing an alternative possibility for such calves to be able to drink or eat.

A way to achieve this is that the feeder has at least two access points, apart from each other. This can be, for instance, at the opposite side of the device. A bold calf cannot be at those two access points at the same time, giving the low ranking calf an opportunity to feed itself.

8 ) Improve the growth and health of the calves.

With manual feeding the calves are dependent on the feeding times, which is usually only two times a day. With an automated calf feeder they have more possibilities to feed themselves whenever they want. These extra possibilities can increase the growth of the calves, provided that there is enough capacity to give each calf the necessary time for feeding.

With more intervals the amount of milk or feed per interval will be less and with that the chances of problems with digestion will also decrease. Diseases like calf scours, caused by nutrition, are less likely to occur.

It doesn’t matter if calf feeders are used for milk, forage or concentrate feeding. A profitable feeder needs to have the above characteristics. It is worthwhile to invest some time to identify which device is best for you. After all, this decision is about to be made for several years. A good calf feeder should save you time, labor and money plus it should also improve growth and health. These are important aspects as you can learn on this page. If you are able to buy such a feeder, then you know that you have bought a good one.


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