Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Does Using an Automatic Calf Feeding System
Always Predict Success?

Bentley and Others collected data from 20 Iowa dairies ranging size from 179 to 880 cows.These dairies had experience with their automatic calf feeder system (sometimes called "computer feeders") ranging from 11 months to 60 months with an average of 2.6 years.

The measures of success include calves dying, sick calves and rate of gain.

Success                    Average     Lowest     Highest     DCHA Gold
Measure                   Value         Value       Value        Standard Value

Dead (mortality)      3%             1%            10%          5%

Sick - scours            14%           0%             80%         25%

Sick - pneumonia    14%            0%            50%          10%

Average Daily
Gain (lbs./day)         2.3              1.25          3.5            1.6 or double birth weight in 60 days

What a huge variation in these success measures among these dairies!

My consulting experience suggests that calving pen management, colostrum management and group housing environment might just be other variables in creating such a wide variation among the farms. 

The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) Gold Standards for heifers is normally available at the www.calfandheifer.org website. Currently there is an update in progress so we have to wait to view these values until this resource is reposted. 

Reference: Bentley, J., K. Lager, L. Tranel, R. Lenth, L. Timms, and L. Kilmer, "Automatic calf feeding systems: Producer Survetys." Proceeding of 4-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference, June 11-12, 2014. pp 90-92.

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