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Calf milk feeders & buckets for calves for healthy calf rearing
Calf feeders are an important investment in calf rearing because they ensure the healthy development of the calf into a high-performance cow. Whether as a calf bottle for the administration of colostrum immediately after birth, as a calf feeding bucket for supplying the calf barn or as a calf drencher for adding feed additives and medication: there are different designs for calf feeding and their areas of application are just as varied.
Here you will find a practical overview of all the important information, in a practical summary, that will help you choose a good calf feeder, as well as a useful feeding plan for rearing your calves:
- These are the advantages of calf milk feeders
- What do you need a calf milk feeder for?
- Which calf milk feeders are there?
- Which calf teat goes with my calf milk feeder?
- What to look out for when buying a calf milk feeder
- Properly water calves: Feeding schedule from ad libitum to weaning
1. These are the advantages of calf milk feeders:
Easier work: With calf drinking troughs in the form of a calf drinking bucket or a calf drinking trough, constant checks to see whether there is still enough milk in the calf trough are a thing of the past, and the bucket is a thing of the past. Thanks to the large capacity of 8-30 liters, you no longer have to water by hand and constantly check whether your calves still have enough milk available. Particularly practical and time-saving if you are raising several calves at the same time.
Animal health from the first day: In contrast to humans, newborn calves are born without antibodies and therefore have no resistance to pathogens. The calf gets antibodies by ingesting as much high-quality colostrum as possible from the mother immediately after birth. The colostrum is fed with a calf drinker or calf bottle. The controlled feeding ensures that the calf consumes enough of it. This is very important because the future health of a calf depends heavily on how much high-quality colostrum it consumes or not in the first few hours of life.
Higher fluid intake: More than half of the calves do not drink enough milk from the udder when they are raised by the mother. It therefore makes sense to offer the calves the milk in a calf feeder. The calves get as much milk as they want to eat (ad libitum). The animals remember: “There is milk when I'm hungry.” This means that they drink larger quantities, more slowly, and the milk is properly fermented and digested.
2. What do you need a calf milk feeder for?
Calf drinkers in the form of a calf feeding bucket, calf bottle or calf drencher are an indispensable tool in calf rearing, because calves only gain weight in the first weeks of life in the form of colostrum (immediately after birth) and whole milk / milk substitute (1st - 10th week of life) themselves and do not have their own immunization.
With a calf feeder, the supply of fluids and antibodies is guaranteed in the first few weeks of a calf's life. And this is particularly important, because the supply of enough milk in the first few weeks of a calf's life is crucial for rearing a healthy, high-performing dairy cow.
3. Which calf milk feeders are there?
Calf feeders are available in different designs and their areas of application are just as diverse: With a calf bottle, newborn calves can be supplied with high-quality colostrum immediately after birth. It can also be used to administer supplementary feed and medication without any problems. A calf bottle is also ideally suited for feeding weak calves or bad drinkers individually.
Since weak calves in particular often show only a slight sucking reflex, they are force-watered with a drencher in an emergency. To do this, a pharynx (plastic tube) is pushed into the animal's stomach and the milk is pumped directly into the abomasum.
Calf feeding buckets provide the calves with high-quality milk in their first weeks of life. The teats imitate the natural udder of a mother, which ensures ideal salivation. In this way, digestive problems of the calves can be effectively prevented in a natural way and growth is positively influenced.
If you want to care for several calves, a calf feeding bucket is probably too small. It is best to use a large calf feeder with several teat outlets. Thanks to the high capacity, you don't have to keep lugging buckets, which in turn saves time and is easy on your nerves.
4. Which calf teat goes with my calf milk feeder?
Calf teats are an important component and a regular wear part of a calf drinking bucket. With us you will find a qualitative selection of high-quality replacement teats for all common calf feeders in different materials and colors:
Super calf teat: The super calf teat (red) is the tried and tested standard teat and can be used for all calves and with every calf feeding bucket.
Calf teat latex: The latex teat (beige) is suitable for teaching young calves to the calf feeding bucket when acidified milk is used.
Calf teat caoutchouc: A caoutchouc teat (beige) is softer than a latex teat and also ideal for getting the calves used to the calf feeding bucket.
Vital teat: The vital teat (black) promotes natural sucking behavior and is ideal for older calves. The suction drive is better satisfied by vacuuming slowly and, compared to other vacuum cleaners, exhausting. This increases the production of saliva and thus aids Digestion.
- Hygiene calf teat: With the Hygiene calf teat from Kerbl you can provide your calves with particularly hygienic care, because the calf teat is revolutionary: Compared to conventional calf teats, where the teats are difficult to clean and germs stick to the teat, there are no hygienic calf teats Germ barriers. All individual parts can be cleaned hygienically.
5. What to look out for when buying a calf milk feeder:
Before you get yourself a calf feeder, it is advisable to make a few considerations. What do I need the calf feeder for? How many calves do I want to feed with it? These questions and other criteria will help you choose the right calf milk feeder tailored to your needs:
Area of application: Depending on whether you need a calf milk feeder for individual feeding or whether the animals should have independent access, a different calf feeder is ideal. We recommend a handy calf bottle for individual feeding. If your calves get as much milk as they want to take in (ad libitum drinking system), then it is best to provide the milk or the milk replacer in a calf drinking bucket or in a large calf drinker.
Number of calves: If you only want to feed a few calves, a calf drinker with a capacity of 8 liters is completely sufficient. If, on the other hand, you raise several young animals at the same time, you should use a large calf drinker with several teats and a high filling capacity (approx. 15 - 30 liters). This way, there are no quarrels among the calves and all young animals get enough milk.
Whole milk or acid milk: Depending on whether you prefer fresh whole milk, a milk substitute or a acid milk, you should use a different calf teat. All of our calf teats are suitable for feeding with fresh whole milk. If, on the other hand, acidified milk is fed, a robust latex teat is better to use. With other models made of rubber or silicone, the acidified milk leads to faster signs of wear.
- Calf teat: Our classic Super calf teat is suitable for teaching all young calves to the calf milk feeder. In calves with a high sucking drive, our Vital teat satisfies the need by sucking slowly and, compared to other teats, exhausting. This increases saliva production and stimulates the digestive system. For calves with a low sucking reflex, monitored feeding with a calf bottle or a calf drencher is recommended.
- Cleaning: Pay more attention to the cleaning option in advance and make sure when buying that the calf milk feeder can be hygienically cleaned quickly and easily. Ideally, the calf milk feeder consists of only a few individual parts. Since the teats are usually difficult to clean, the revolutionary Hygiene calf teat from Kerbl is a sensible alternative: Compared to conventional calf teats, where the teats are difficult to clean and germs stick in the teat, all of the hygiene calf teats can come into contact with milk coming parts can be cleaned easily accessible.
6. Feeding calves properly: Feeding schedule from ad libitum to weaning
In calf rearing, the feeding plan should be given special importance. Because a drinking concept for the first 10 weeks of life forms the basis for rearing healthy and high-performance dairy cows. Below you will find practical information, summarized in the most important points, which are important for healthy calf rearing:
1. The first meal: Colostrum
The calf is born largely without antibodies against diseases. These antibodies must be supplied via the colostrum (also first milk). Colostrum can be administered to the calf using a calf bottle with a teat. The calf should drink as much of it as it wants. At least 2.5 liters should be administered within the first 3 hours. 3-4 liters are even better, as colostrum from cows that have to produce high milk yields usually contain fewer antibodies.
It is important to drink fluids within 3 hours after the birth because …
- ... the calf does not have any immunization after birth.
- ... the content of antibodies (immunoglobulins) in milk decreases rapidly.
- ... these protective substances can no longer be completely absorbed by the calf when given later.
- ... about 36 hours after the birth the intestinal barrier is closed and immunoglobulins can then no longer be absorbed.
It is therefore optimal to milk enough colostrum for the calf immediately after birth. Since the quality of colostrum varies considerably between the individual cows, the antibody content can be measured using a colostrometer.
Ideally, you should stock up on colostrum with frozen colostrum from healthy cows in advance. This milk supply is important for calves whose dams give too little colostrum or whose colostrum does not contain enough antibodies. Packaged in professional colostrum bags, the colostrum can be stored for a long time and frozen until it is used.
What if colostrum is refused?
Without colostrum, the calf's chances of survival are extremely low. If the calf refuses to give the first milk, the milk must be forcibly fed in with a calf drencher (also known as an injection syringe). For drenching, a pharyngeal tube (plastic tube) is pushed into the calf's stomach and the colostrum is pumped directly into the abomasum.
2. Whole milk or milk replacer: Milk to 10 weeks of age
There are different watering methods that are used in calf rearing. A distinction is made between the conventional feeding method (assigned milk supply per day) and the ad-libitum feeding method (as much milk as the calf wants). Since the ad-libitum drinking method is more popular and healthier in practice, we want to take a closer look at this drinking variant:
Ad libitum drinking process
With ad-libitum feeding, the calves can drink as much milk as they want in the first 3 weeks. Ideally, high-quality transit milk is fed, which each cow gives off in the first 5 days of lactation. This transit milk is not for sale in the market, but it is very suitable for the rearing of calves. Natural milk contains more energy, fat, protein and less iron than the milk replacers available on the market. The whole milk is warmed up with a special calf milk heater and soaked at body temperature (39 ° C) so that it is well tolerated by the calves.
In practice, the acid drinking methode simplifies the management of the drink immensely. By adding products for acidification (like ready-made acid mixtures, yoghurt, formic or citric acid), the milk remains well tolerated by the young animals even below 39 °C. The Acid drinking methode has proven itself in practice, especially with diarrhea problems. Due to the lower pH value below 5.5, diarrhea pathogens in the stomach and intestinal area (E. Coli) can spread less. Acidified milk is also easier for the calf to digest than warm milk, as the acidification means that the milk is already "pre-digested".
This intensive ad-libitum diet in the first few weeks has a lasting positive effect on the development of the udder and later milk production.
3. Also offer water and concentrated feed
After the 4th week, the amount of whole milk in calf rearing should be limited to 6 liters per day so that sufficient solid calf feed is consumed. But as early as the first week of life you should offer the calves water and concentrated feed, as even a minimal intake already promotes the development of the rumen. This is particularly important because after weaning the calf must be able to meet its needs without adding milk and is dependent on the function of the rumen. The better the rumen has formed, the easier it is to wean it and move from an older calf to an adult dairy cow.
4. Proper weaning: get calves used from concentrated feed
After the ad-libitum phase, the daily amount of drink is gradually reduced until the milk is stopped. The calf cannot be weaned from the calf feeder until 8-10 weeks at the earliest. Earlier weaning at 7 weeks of age has a negative effect on the development of the calf and is therefore rarely used.
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