Monitoring and managing the performance of calves reared on automatic milk feeding systems in the new CAFRE calf house is made considerably easier by the addition of automatic weigh scales on the milk feed boxes and access to the freely available Foerster Technik calf cloud software on the internet. Data from the automatic milk feeder is uploaded to the calf cloud software through a 4g wifi data connection in the calf house. Individual calf information is displayed as a report on the calf cloud software detailing: feeding behaviour, drinking speed, concentrate intake and liveweight.
The aim of the CAFRE heifer rearing enterprise is to rear heifers cost effectively to the point of calving into the main herd at 24 months of age or earlier at a calving weight of around 90% of mature weight. Calving at 24 months or earlier is optimum for economic performance as it reduces the number of replacement heifers on the farm, the area of land and buildings and reduces the number of non-productive days of life. In addition to reducing costs, earlier calving will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions per litre of milk produced through reducing the number of unproductive animals emitting greenhouse gases on the farm.
In order to achieve 24-month calving, careful management is required in all three of the heifer rearing stages of birth to weaning, weaning to conception and conception to calving. The current targets for heifer calf rearing in the new CAFRE calf house are to double birth weight by weaning and achieve a target growth rate of 0.80 kg to 0.9 kg liveweight gain per day from birth to weaning. Performance of the first batch of calves reared in the new CAFRE calf house can be viewed in the below pdf.