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Switching to automatic calf feeding on Wicklow family farm

JFC Agri spoke to dairy farmer Stephen Miley about his dairy enterprise, operating a split calving calendar and the benefits that he has seen since installing a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder on his farm in Co. Wicklow.

Stephen Miley, along with his wife Maeve and his parents Rosaleen and Myles, operate a 150 dairy cow herd in Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow, “We milked 133 cows last year but have increased to 150 this year. We keep a mixture of MountBeliarde and Fleckvich on the farm. We keep all calves on the farm, all the replacement heifer calves and beef animals. I’m working off a small milking platform. So, my grazing has to be spot on. I’m only working off 85 acres that’s all dedicated to the dairy. Last year, my cows produced 7,500 litres per cow. Milk fats were just over 4% and proteins at 3.6%. We operate a split calving; 40% autumn and 60% spring calving. My sons Evan, James and Eoin are really good with the stock and are always helping me out on the farm.”

Stephen purchased a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder in March 2020, “We had just completed building a purpose-built calf shed and wanted to find a more efficient way of feeding the calves that would save time, reduce the amount of people needed to feed the calves, while at the same time making sure that the calves were being fed right. I used to have calves in every corner of the farm, in groups of 6 and 7, batch feeding them. The time I lost feeding calves was just something else. I reared 70 calves in the autumn and just found that the workload was just too much.”

The Benefits

Stephen has seen many benefits since installing a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder;

Reduced Time & Labor

One of the biggest benefits that Stephen has seen since installing a JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder has been in terms of how much time it saves him every day, “On average, the JFC Agri Evolution S4 saves me at least two hours every day on feeding calves. I only realised this when I compare it to batch feeding. There’s so much time needed to mix up milk and cart it around to the different locations around the yard. It was an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That’s just gone feeding them, but definitely two hours a day it has saved me.”

Ease of Use

Before deciding to purchase the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder, Stephen had been worried that the machine may be complicated to operate but once he started to use it, it was clear to see how easy and user friendly the machine is, “The machine is extremely easy to use. I can see what calves are drinking, how often they’re drinking and if they are taking their full allocation. It flags any calves that aren’t drinking. I have a look at the feeder before and after milking. Evan, James and Owen are all able to tell me how the calves are performing, it’s that easy to use.”

Better Calf Performance

Stephen admits that the overall performance of the calves is much better now than when he was batch feeding his calves, “The calves are definitely performing much better on the feeder than when I was batch feeding. The calf can decide when it wants to drink and can go to the feeder more than once if it wants. There’s no competition between the calves like there is with batch feeding. It really helps the slower drinkers. I rear all the calves on a 100 day programme.”

Improved Calf Health

Stephen has seen a notable improvement in the health status of the calves, finding that they have become less vulnerable to common diseases, “In terms of health, the calves would have always got a bout of pneumonia when I was batch feeding them. Since I’ve started using the JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder there has been little to no cases. This is massive in giving me peace of mind that the calves are healthy.”

Stress-free Weaning

The efficient weaning of calves is a massive benefit for Stephen, “The way that the machine weans the calves is really something else. The calves are a picture to look at. They don’t get stressed or agitated as the machine gradually weans them off the milk replacer over a set period, rather than an abrupt cut-off. There was a noticeable difference in the quality of the calves that I reared back in the autumn in comparison to other years.”

JFC Agri Customer Support

Stephen is quick to highlight the positive experience he receives from the team at JFC Agri and believes that continued access to their advice and service is crucial. Ciaran O’Toole from Keadeen Dairy Services looks after the servicing and maintenance of Stephen’s JFC Agri Evolution S4 automatic calf feeder, “From day 1, the service that the team at Keadeen Dairy Services have given me has been excellent. Ciaran is brilliant. He installed the machine and is always on hand if I need anything at all.”

Further Information

Contact the JFC Agri team today to find out more about the Evolution Automatic Calf Feeder and be sure to download our catalogue here.

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