Installing an automated milk feeder has been part of one Lancashire dairy farm’s drive to future-proof the business.
The ability to feed higher volumes of milk safely and not being tied to a set feeding time were some of the reasons the Kidd family moved to an automated milk feeding system.
Three years ago, David Kidd decided to upgrade the existing calf rearing set-up at Booth Hall Farm, Quernmore, Lancaster, as part of a general move to future-proof the family business.
He says: “Our first major investment was a new parlour, which was followed by improved cubicle housing for the cows.
But our latest project is a new relocated, totally bespoke calf rearing building, which is already transforming the way we rear our herd replacements.
Going forward, investment will be channelled into projects like this that save us time.
We do not really see ourselves getting much bigger, so it’s all about efficiency.”
Mr Kidd runs 170 all-yearround calving Holsteins with brother Neil and parents, Edwin and Maureen.
Milk is sold to the Co-op. The herd yields 10,000 litres per cow per year at 4% fat and 3.3% protein.
The youngstock building was specifically designed for calves, with 7ft eves and a curtain down each side.
A specially-designed raised ridge was also installed to help draw air out. The new six-pen setup enables different aged calves to be kept separately.
It has also allowed pens to be rested between batches. The shed has two Urban Alma Pro computerised calf feeders from Volac.
Each machine has three feeding stations with one feeding station serving a pen of 10 calves.
Having bucket-fed calves three litres of milk twice-a-day on the old system, the automated set-up has allowed Mr Kidd to raise milk feeding rates.
Calves now receive up to 1,200g of milk powder versus 600g previously.
The fact calves can drink little and often throughout the day helps to feed these higher volumes, safely.
That has been reflected in average growth rates from birth to weaning of 0.9kg per day.
Mr Kidd was also attracted to the Urban Alma Pro because three calves can parallel feed at the same time.
He says: “The calves look better. They shine more and they’re fitter.
And I’d like to say they grow quicker and put better frame on.” The automated system is saving Mr Kidd up to an hour per day, but the flexibility of not being tied to set feeding times has been the main benefit.
He adds: “It’s less time consuming, but it’s not like you don’t have to bother with them. You’ve still got to clean the teats.
We wash the teats every morning.” The information available on the system has also proved valuable, with Mr Kidd analysing the data at the end of every day.
“The information is good. It shows you a graph of the last few days of what they’ve drunk against what they should have drunk.
You’ve got a lot of information to see how the calf has been drinking.”
Want to continue reading the series? Click the links below!