CalfOTel providing microclimate for baby calves on Ballymena farm

DISCUSSION: Ballymena dairy farmer John Barkley discusses the benefits of the CalfOTel movable single unit with agent Maurice Wylie, Irwin Farm Supplies.

DUNGANNON-based company Irwin Farm Supplies is Northern Ireland’s sole agent for the CalfOTel range of individual and group hutches manufactured by Dutch company VDK Products.

Last year CalfOtel launched a movable single unit which provides accommodation for four calves.

“The space saving unit boasts a compact design and provides the perfect microclimate for newborn calves,” explained Maurice Wylie from Irwin Farm Supplies.

“We unveiled the CalfOTel portable unit at last year’s Winter Fair, and it has revolutionised calf rearing on dairy farms across Northern Ireland.”

Dale Farm milk producers John Barkley, and son Craig, from Ballymena, were among the first to invest in the new CalfOTel unit.

Greenmount College graduate Craig saw the portable CalfOTel unit advertised in an international dairying magazine, and was delighted when he discovered it was available in the Province via Irwin Farm Supplies.

“Newborn calves are vulnerable to infections, and despite reasonably good housing facilities we have encountered calf rearing problems,” said John Barkley who owns the 120-cow Maineside pedigree Holstein herd.

“We were impressed with the concept and design of the CalfOTel unit, and decided to invest in two of the large portable movable units, and a number of the individual comfort hutches.”

John continued: “Calves are transferred to the CalfOTel unit immediately after birth. The unit provides effective shelter, and sufficient ventilation, for baby calves.

“It has an awning which can be opened and closed to protect calves from wind and rain, and control ventilation. When the awning is open we can stand up inside to administer colostrum using a stomach tube which is crucial to give calves the best start in life.”

The CalfOTel unit has smooth surfaces which are easily cleaned and disinfected. Each individual pen has a wide opening (0.9m) and is accessible using a simple latch system. The raised zinc-plated threshold contains the straw bedding and helps to minimise waste.

The exterior dimensions of the CalfOTel unit are 390 x 210 x 215cm, and the interior dimensions of each calf space are 90 x 140cm. All units are fitted with a stable lift frame which ensures smooth transport using a telehandler or forklift.

John Barkley added: ”The CalfOTel system is welfare friendly and great value for money. The newborn calves are thriving, and they are less susceptible to pneumonia and scour. The calves are housed individually, and are kept warm and dry. The divider walls have openings which help to encourage social interaction between calves.

“The system is working well and we can see physical and financial benefits,” said John.

“The CalfOTel provides instant housing for newborn calves, and they benefit immensely from natural daylight and fresh air. In extreme weather conditions the calves are protected from the elements, and Cozy Calf jackets are fitted during the winter months.”

After a few weeks the calves are moved to individual hutches, also manufactured by CalfOTel – a company which has been a leading supplier of calf rearing systems for 30 years.

The CalfOTel hutches are compact, and include a host of practical features. They are made from glass fibre reinforced polyester, and are durable and easy to clean. The fence is galvanised, and is compatible with a range of customisable accessories, including a combifeeder and teat buckets, which are fitted using a patented multilock.


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