Automatic calf feeder tops in County Meath

ABOVE: Liam Harnan, left, with Thomas O’Reilly, Volac Business Manager. The Volac Forster Technik computerised feeder Liam describes as a ‘great investment’ that gives excellent calf performance and trouble-free weaning.

BUYING a Volac Forster Technik computerised calf feeder has dramatically cut the labour load and produced more contented, healthier and better performing calves for County Meath dairy farmer Liam Harnan.

Liam, who runs a herd of 130 crossbred cows, installed a Forster Technik Vario Smart feeder three years ago. It feeds up to 120 calves at four feed stations and is fitted with the most up to date technology in computerised calf feeding.

The automatic cleaning feature, combined with sound overall management, ensures the highest level of hygiene.

This German made feeder is internet-capable as standard and a free CalfApp and CalfCloud is available. This enables farmers to manage feeding and check calf drinking behaviour and health when away from the shed or the farm.

Among the optional extras are an electronic calf scale which enables continuous monitoring of calf weight, which can add value, especially when rearing top quality replacement heifer calves.

Delighted with the Forster Technik feeder, Liam Harnan views it as a ‘great investment.’ While the big reduction in labour was the most immediate and obvious advantage, there were also improvements in the performance and health of calves reared on the feeder compared to those previously bucket-reared.

“I know exactly how much each calf is drinking. Some calves drink quicker than others and that was always a problem with bucket-rearing. This feeder ensures every calf gets its allocated daily amount.

“I find the alarm system that alerts us to a calf that is off its feed a huge advantage. It enables me to act quickly and treat the calf even before any real symptoms become obvious.

“The fact that the feeder lets me design different feeding programmes for different types or breeds of calves is another advantage that appeals to me. That is almost impossible to do in a conventional feeding programme,” added Liam.

Liam Harnan is particularly impressed with the smooth and trouble-free weaning of calves off the computerised feeder.

Milk replacer levels are programmed to be gradually reduced during the three to four weeks before weaning. This encourages increased intake of concentrates. The end result is a seamless weaning process with calves suffering no setbacks.

Liam finds that calves are very easily trained on the feeder. The vast majority take to it after being introduced for the first time.

He also finds the technology easy to use. His daughter Shauna is a great support in dealing with any technological hiccups as well as assisting with the overall calf rearing programme.

He also acknowledges the support he receives from Volac Business Manager Thomas O’Reilly and from Volac calf feeder engineers.

Liam rears all his replacement heifer calves on the Forster Technik feeder. The rest of the calves are sold at two to three weeks of age.

The performance from birth to weaning is crucial to lifetime performance of replacement heifers and in ensuring that they reach the required frame and weight at mating and calving.

Liam Harnan believes that the consistent performance of his calves on the computerised feeder combined with the use of a quality Volac milk replacer provides the platform for producing replacement heifers of the highest quality.

A noted sportsman of the 1980s Liam now sees using the Volac feeder and milk replacers as the way to achieve his goals today.

n To hear how you can rear better calves with less work Freephone 0800 8652 2522, browse or contact Volac NI business manager Alistair Sampson, telephone 07860 626442, email


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