“Must-do” management recommendations…
- Good air quality and ventilation are critical.
- Maintain plentiful, clean, dry bedding at all times.
- Excellent dry-cow care and vaccination; calving environment; and colostrum delivery are all necessary to get autofed calves off to a good start.
- Locate feeding stalls within three feet of the machine to keep milk transfer lines cleaner.
- Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for automatic cleaning and sanitizing.
- Perform manual cleaning according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Clean and/or replace nipples at least daily.
- If calibration is not automatic, re-calibrate machines at least once a week.
- Be sure to account for water volume when calculating solids content of reconstituted milk replacer. (Example: 150 grams added to a liter of water = <13% solids)
- Do not use soft water to mix milk replacer, as sodium toxicity can result.
- Feed starter grain with a protein content commensurate to the milk-based diet. Provide free-choice and keep supply fresh and clean.
- Provide plenty of fresh, clean, free-choice water. Clean waterers daily and separate from starter grain to prevent cross contamination.
- Don’t dehorn, vaccinate or move calves at the same time they are being weaned.
- Empty feeding pens and sanitize between groups of calves.
The pooled experience of both industry experts, and managers currently using autofeeder systems,
has produced the following recommendations to successfully implement the practice.
By the numbers…
Recommended maximum number of calves per nipple station
At least 35
Recommended square footage per calf
At least 5 days, up to 14 days
Recommended age at transition to autofeeder
Recommended maximum age spread between calves in a pen
4 to 6
Average number of meals calves consume per day
1.8 to 2.7 pounds of solids, or 6 to 11 liters
Milk allowances per calf per day:
7 to 14 days
Weaning period in which milk volume is stepped down
Weaning age minimum
3 lbs./calf daily
Minimum group started consumption at weaning
For the full article, read "Autofeeders: Three calf managers share their experiences."