Tom Spillane operates a 70 cow dairy herd in Beaufort, Killarney, County Kerry, with
his father Michael and wife Elaine.
“We are milking 70 cows on 120 acres. It’s mainly British and Holstein Friesian cows. We keep all calves on the farm, rearing them using an automatic calf feeder. We calve from mid-January onwards,” he said.
Tom purchased a JFC Agri Evolution S2 automatic calf feeder two years ago. “Ultimately, I wanted to make life simpler at calving time. I had an old dung shed that was lying idle. With the help of the team at JFC Agri, we were able to come up with a design that would now allow us to rear calves in that shed. My father is in his 70s, I have three young boys and my wife Elaine, so I just wanted to take the workload off of us.”
Tom is quick to highlight the many benefits he has seen since installation: “It has revolutionised calf feeding and rearing on our farm. It gives us more time to focus on calving and frees us up to focus on other areas of the farm. We wanted to invest in a machine that would set us up for the future.
“The feeder takes away all of the work when it comes to calf feeding. From a labour perspective, this is huge as my father is retired and I have the three young boys to look after with my wife Elaine. It saves a huge amount of time. You can go in, walk around the calves and you can see if there’s something wrong straight away because they’re all quiet when you go in in the morning. It’s a gift that way.”
Tom admits that training the calves onto the machine is a seamless process: “The calves take to the machine very quickly. For most calves you just have to show them once. I would generally come up the following day and you’ll hear nothing. All calves lying down, happy out, that’s what you want. The time it saves is unreal. It’s a gift. I have to say, it’s a gift.”
The Spillanes have also seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of the calves. “When we were milking 40 cows, we had more time and capacity to batch feed the calves. Since increasing the number to 70, we no longer have the time to give an hour every morning and evening to feed the calves.
“Also, my father Michael has retired and he always done a super job rearing the calves. It is very difficult to mix the milk to the same ratio consistency and temperature every time. The feeder ensures that this happens.
“Also, the calves can now go at their leisure to get their allocation of milk whenever they want. The slower drinkers get the same amount of milk as the faster ones and this ensures consistent weights are achieved at weaning. The machine also lets us know if a calf, for whatever reason, hasn’t drank their milk. The calves are much more uniform. They are all hitting their targets when they’re supposed to be when they’re on the machine. It’s a top class machine,” said Tom.
Tom has two pens in his calf shed, dividing the younger and older calves. He uses a 70 day feeding programme with the feeder automatically weaning the calves off. “We have seen a substantial reduction in calf stress at weaning. The feeder brings them up gradually to the six litres and gradually weans them off.”
Tom is quick to highlight the excellent support that he receives from the team at JFC Agri and believes that continued access to their advice and service is crucial. “There’s always someone there to answer the phone, no matter what time of the night it is. That makes all the difference.”
Tom feels that the JFC Agri Evolution S2 is a well-priced product when all factors are taken into consideration.
“The machine is strong, reliable and durable. The calves take to it very quickly. It reduces the workload, saves us time and the back-up service is excellent. I am very happy with the investment we have made.”
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