Automated calf feeders reduce the labor and time required to feed calves by properly mixing and feeding milk replacer or cow's milk.
Many Minnesota dairies have invested in automated calf feeding systems, but the producers still have questions about feeding procedures to optimize calf health, welfare and growth performance.
Endres is the principal investigator on a USDA-funded grant to specifically study automated calf feeders best practices. The Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca uses an automated feeder system for research demonstrations.
Noah Litherland, Extension dairy scientist, has also been a part of calf feeder research. "With grant support from the University of Minnesota and the allied dairy industry, we continue to study connections between how we feed the baby calf and raising a healthy and productive future dairy cow," he says.
In-line parlor technologies is a term that covers several new tools for the dairy producer. These technologies monitor and evaluate many different facets of the production system. Examples include specialized milking equipment, individual cow testing at milking time, and nutrition systems that provide each cow with the best individual ration.
The wave of the future, but in baby steps
Endres and other Extension dairy team members are collecting data from several dozen Midwest dairy farms on the use of robotic milkers and automated calf feeders. Sensor technology also provides data that Endres uses in her research on cow behavior and well-being.
"It's the wave of the future, but not all of these systems have to be used all at once on a dairy farm," says Endres. "Each producer will choose the technologies that most benefit his or her operation."
Minnesota exports about $191 million in dairy products annually. Over time, precision dairy systems help improve milk quality.