We spoke to Beef Farmer Tom Grenham about his experience of using the JFC Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder.
Tom and Martina Grenham operate a suckler cow herd in Co. Roscommon. “We operate a cross bred beef herd. We also buy in about 80 calves each year” said Tom.
Both Tom and Martina work full time off-farm and have four children; Keith, Sinead, Aaron and Alannah, all of whom help out on the farm. They were looking for something that would save them time. Time management between their full time employment and the farm was becoming an increasing cause for concern for the Grenhams. As a result, Tom installed JFC’s Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder in February 2019, “If we didn’t have the calf feeder, we wouldn’t be able to rear close to 80 calves. We installed the automatic calf feeder last year because my wife and I both work off the farm full time and were finding it difficult to have time to look after the calves properly. Also, my eldest son Keith is in college full time. Time is a scare resource on all farms, so we wanted to make sure that we making the most of it” Tom explained.
Since installing the JFC Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder, Tom has seen a number of key benefits, particularly in terms of the amount of time it saves them having to feed the calves and the significant reduction in labour required.
Both Tom and Martina have seen a massive reduction in the amount of time they need to give when it comes to feeding the calves, “The automatic calf feeder has saved us a huge amount of time. On average, the automatic calf feeder saves us at least 2 hours every day, an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, which amounts to a lot of time over the year. I don’t have to rush out early in the morning before work or race home after work to feed the calves. It’s like having an extra person on the farm all the time looking after the calves. It allows us to continue to work off the farm. Without the Evolution S2, we wouldn’t be able to rear 80 calves on the farm and hold down full time employment.”
“Since purchasing the Evolution S2, it has taken away the need to be rushing around feeding the calves before work and after work. The calves can get fed during the night also which is a massive benefit so that they are not all competing at one time for milk like when we were batch feeding.”
Tom has seen a substantial reduction in the amount of labour that is needed when it comes to feeding and looking after the calves, “The Evolution S2 has drastically reduced the amount of work that myself and Martina have to put in when it comes to feeding and looking after the calves. The machine does the work for us. It feeds the calves for us. All I have to do is put the milk powder into the machine, it couldn’t be simpler.”
In comparison to when he was batch feeding the calves, Tom admits that there is more consistency in terms of overall calf performance by using the Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder, “I am confident that every calf is getting the right amount of milk that they need to perform. Every calf has differing nutritional needs depending on their age and overall health and the automatic feeder allows for this. It ensures a consistency in what the calves are receiving. From the machine, you can see what each calf is getting. With the batch feeder you can’t see what each individual calf consumes. The calves are much more uniform now. Every year, there tends to be one or two smaller calves in the bunch. With the automatic calf feeder, their plain of nutrition can be extended and their allowance can be altered to suit individual calf requirements, which provides a viable solution in closing the gap performance wise.”
In Tom’s opinion, another key feature of JFC’s Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder is its ability to aid him in identifying calves that are not performing at their optimum. “From the display screen on the machine, I can see when a calf is feeding, if it’s getting its full quota of milk and when it’s not feeding. Most calves tend to not consume their full allocation if something if the need additional attention. From this, I am able to identify any calves that may be becoming ill and isolate them from the rest of the herd so that I can take the necessary corrective action before it’s too late. It also means that the calf is less likely to suffer or loose condition. If a calf isn’t thriving, you can adjust their feed levels.”
Tom fees that the Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder is a real winner for the slower drinking calves, “I see a real benefit with calves that are slower to drink. Some calves are just slower drinkers. On the Evolution S2, they have all the time in the world to drink their allocation of milk. On the batch feeder, it’s the faster drinkers that perform best. When you go into the calf shed in the morning, all the calves are content and relaxed. That’s a clear sign that they are full and getting what they are supposed to be getting.”
Tom believes that weaning has become a much more straight forward process on the farm, “When it comes to weaning, the machine automatically weans the calves off the milk replacer. It’s like having an extra person on the farm helping you. I have peace of mind that the calves are being looked after nutritionally while Martina and I are at work and that the calves won’t lose condition from the stress from weaning as their milk is gradually reduced.”
Tom admits that Evolution S2 is very user friendly, “I find the machine very easy to use. No matter who is using the machine, everyone see the same information relating to the calves.”
Tom feels that the team at JFC AGRI have been very helpful and supportive since installing the Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder, “The team at JFC AGRI have been very helpful. They provided training to all the family, so we all knew how to operate it and have been available to take a call at any time which makes the world of difference. It’s a very easy machine to use once it is installed, but it’s reassuring to know that they are there if needed.”
Tom feels that the JFC Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder is a value for money investment, “Taking all elements into consideration, from the amount of time and labour it saves, the consistency of the calves, the customer support that JFC AGRI offer and the peace of mind that your calves are being reared properly, I feel that it is a value for money investment. The machine saves us almost 15 hours on average each week! For anyone that wants to rear calves properly and cut down on the labour on their farm, I would highly recommend the Evolution Automatic Calf Feeder S2.”