Automatic Calf Feeding

The right fit for our farm

Purchasing an automatic calf feeder had been on our wish list for a long time, but it wasn’t just the cost that was keeping us from making moves. Calf feeders from other companies weren’t fitting our goals for calf rearing.

Hygiene was a priority and the Holm & Laue CalfExpert automatic calf feeder with the Calf-Star Instant Calf Facility understood that need. This system offers a self cleaning system that sprays chlorine dioxide on the nipple and through the system between calves, slobber trays, and more hygiene forward solutions. With four stalls off of one robot and cleanliness built in to the design, this system fit the needs of our family dairy farm. 

A little about our calves

At Barstow’s Longview Farm we have 600 head and milk ~300 cows. We raise holstein and holstein angus calves, and with ~150 born each year, we typically have ~30 calves drinking calves at any given time. Before the installation of our automatic calf feeder, calves were separated in hutches in the calf barn that we built in 2010.

We’d mix up milk replacer in the main barn and drive it to the calf barn. We were feeding them replacer twice per day, morning and evening, offering grain, and checking in mid-day (or more often on those hot summer days) with more water. 

We needed a change

If you’re raising your own calves, you know that this system is time consuming, leaves room for inconsistency between staff, and doesn’t provide calves with the precise nutrition, attention, or socialization that they need. 

With retirement on the horizon for the sixth generation on our farm and our commitment to exceptional animal care, the Holm & Laue CalfExpert automatic calf feeder had all the answers. 

Calf care with Calf-Star

The four stalled Calf-Star Instant Calf Facility made renovating our calf barn relatively simple. This plug and play building is made to fit on a trailer for easy shipping. The existing design is 8’ x 10’ or 8’ x 12’, but is customizable on request. Once delivered, we placed the unit in the middle of our barn and built our six calf pens around it. Using Sturdy Built gates, each group has access to at least one automatic calf feeder at a time. There is always one pen empty and clean, ready for the next group. Groups are separated by two week periods. 

Calves, tagged with RFID ear tags, access the feeder when they are hungry and receive milk replacer based on the last time they ate. State-of-the-art feeding technology ensures that the milk for the calves is always freshly mixed. It doesn’t matter whether feeding milk replacer or pasteurized whole milk, the CalfExpert prepares the milk automatically and individually for each animal. 

“The Calf-Star automatic feeder has transformed calf rearing on our farm” – David Barstow, sixth generation owner operator 

Why we are using these Calf-Star products: 

  • Reduces labor and provides more consistent care. 
  • Reduced crowding in our heifer group. The CalfExpert is able to feed 120 calves per day. 
  • Track individual feeding behavior data of calves to detect calf intake and health. Our calves are eating more to better match their nutrition and growing goals.
  • Socialization. Research indicates that when calves socialize with other calves some benefits include increased weight gain, improvements in calf behavior and social skills, and reduced stress response when handled.
  • Calf comfort and health is a priority, and come wintertime, the calves can huddle together rather than nesting individually. We highly recommend the high-quality Calf-Star Calf Jackets. 
  • Feed a large number of calves with a fresh mix adapted to each individual calf.
  • Food safety. The CalfExpert calf feeder mixes the milk fresh for each calf. Any residual milk is kept warm and flushed out of the system following longer drinking breaks. Other calf feeders work with a central milk supply. When milk is stored this way at 104°F, the bacterial count doubles every 20 minutes. The CalfExpert guarantees maximum hygiene and feeding suitable for every individual animal.
  • Weaning is easier. CalfExpert is able to mix a lower milk replacer powder concentration automatically for individual animals in the weaning process. 
  • Quick and quality. Milk replacer is prepared in an optimum, lump-free way with no splashing and thorough mixing. A calf receives its freshly mixed milk directly at the teat in just 3 seconds!
  • Inclusive of all ages and health levels. The CalfExpert prevents the separation of the milk replacer powder by slow permanent stirring. The heater in the mixer always ensures the mix is kept at a constant temperature, no matter how long the calf needs – ideal for young or weak calves. 
  • It’s clean. Unlike other automatic feeders, the hygiene station rinses the entire milk tube through to the teat during longer drinking breaks. In addition, the complete milk system is automatically cleaned several times every day, reducing a calf’s exposure to bacteria, improving the health of the calves, and saving on manual cleaning time. 

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