CALF to beef farmer Philip Hayes talks about his experience to date with the JFC Evolution S2 Automatic Calf Feeder, his farming system, and the benefits he’s seen since installing the Evolution.
Philip and his wife and two children farm outside Buttlersbridge, Co. Cavan, rearing approximately 300 calves on his 130-acre farm. Philip purchases mixed breed beef calves, including Aberdeen Angus and Hereford, at around 10 days old, buying them in batches of 75. Philip then sells 150 of these at weaning time, while keeping the remaining 150 for finishing.
The aim of the system is to purchase calves at different times of the year to ensure Philip has animals ready to finish all year round. Purchasing calves throughout the year means Philip finishes 50 per cent off grass with the remaining been finished indoors. Along with running a successful calf to beef enterprise Philip works full time off farm. His dad, Philip Snr, helps on the farm during busy periods.
Philip purchased the JFC Evolution back in early 2021, and has just completed two full years with the feeder. Philip purchased the feeder with the main aim of reducing labour while at the same time maintaining animal welfare, and expanding the business in line with his 5-year farm plan. At the time of purchase Philip availed of TAMS ll grant aid which is available to farmers through the Department Agriculture Food and Marine.
Philip was quick to highlight the positive impact the feeder has had on his farm, which has allowed him to grow and improve his enterprise performance in a way that he couldn’t have imagined.
Working full-time off-farm, Philip was looking for a feeding system that would reduce his workload while allowing him to expand his enterprise in line with his long-term plans for the business. Before purchasing the feeder Philip reared a smaller number of calves, purchasing in smaller batches. “Previously we purchased in small batches of 25 and now we’re purchasing and rearing 75 calves at a time. In saying that, rearing the larger number of calves is taking half the time it would have taken to rear the 25 calves.”
Philip is finishing up his second season using the feeder, which saw 150 calves in year one and 300 in year two, which in itself shows the performance and power of the JFC Evolution.
Philip has seen increased calf performance across his herd without any additional cost, “All calves are getting exactly what they need. When we were feeding with a milk cart and teat feeder, the stronger calf could be getting four litres and the weaker calf could be getting two litres meaning the weaker calves would never perform.
“The JFC Evolution Automatic Calf Feeder is just a better calf rearing tool, with every calf getting the exact requirement.” Philip also highlighted the ability to adjust feed rates for calves not performing, “Weaker calves can be assigned to a tailored feed programme to help bring them in line with the rest of the batch.”
Having previously operated with a milk cart and teat feeder Philip found that trying to save time resulted in an impact on calf performance, “I tend to leave the calves on the feeder for longer now. In the past I might have taken calves off 10 days early just to save some time. Now they all get exactly the required time that’s needed, and I don’t have to put in any extra effort, with all calves consistently 10 to 15kgs heavier compared to my previous system.”
The design of the JFC Evolution allows farmers to easily manage and adapt the system to best suit their farming needs. Philip strongly agrees with this. “We set up the feeder to best suit our system here. When purchased calves are placed on a 70-day feed curve – the first 10 days on a gradual upward curve, 50 days at six litres a day with the last 10 days on a downward curve, averaging 42kg of milk powder during the 70-day cycle.”
A big benefit to Philip is the traffic light system and the ability to monitor the feeder from the JFC Agri Evolution App when working during the day or travelling. “The traffic light system gives me huge piece of mind when away from the farm. Once the calves are tagged, the start-up process is seamless. My father, who is 68 years of age, has been well able to manage and navigate through the interface.”
Philip has full confidence in the feeder to bring his calves through the feed curve and onto weaning without any additional stress and condition loss. “The feed curve is setup to wean calves after 10 weeks, with the option to move from two feeds to one feed per day towards the end. It’s a great feature, the calf is leaving the calf house fully weaned and eating his 2-2.5kg of meal. You don’t have stressed out calves looking for milk, which to me means the calf never stops thriving.”
Philip quickly highlights the excellent support he receives from the team at JFC, from his initial contact with Aaron Galligan, JFC sales representative, to the service technicians who are available all year round. “Aaron was more than professional from start to finish. He offered advice on different shed layouts, and even dropped us out a station of the feeder to help us design a layout for maximum efficiency. Aaron also provided advice on system start up including feed curve setup and calf registration. This shows how much JFC value their customers.”
Looking back, Philip’s last two seasons using the JFC Evolution has been an overall benefit to his entire enterprise. It has helped Philip reach his 5-year plan within two years without any additional labour. “The feeder is a one stop shop from the outset, with the level of service I’d have no concern in recommending the JFC Evolution to any farmer looking to streamline their system.”
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