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Evaluation of management, nutrient consistency and sanitation of automated calf feeders


The objective of this study was to evaluate management, sanitation and consistency of liquid diets delivered to calves via autofeeders. Ten herds in Virginia and North Carolina with sophisticated(Förster- Technik, Germany) and basic (Biotic Industries, TN) machines were asked a 60-question survey concerning calf and autofeeder management. Duplicate milk replacer samples were obtained to measure standard plate count (SPC), Brix refractometer value and temperature of liquid diet delivered by the autofeeder at the time of the survey. Dairies were also categorized based upon management strategies for the autofeeders. Producers purchased autofeeders to manipulate feeding rate, refocus labor to improved sanitation, explore new feeding options and provide better care and well-being of calves. Six dairies were visited monthly for 3 mo for continued evaluation of milk replacer from the autofeeder. Survey questions did not reveal differences related to management strategy or autofeeder type as determined by Proc Freq. Variables, SPC, Brix and temperature were analyzed by Proc Glimmix with a fixed effect of management strategy, or autofeeder type, and random effect of dairy nested in management strategy or autofeeder type, and residual. Seven herds utilizing basic machines had milk replacer liquid with a mean SPC of 6.9 × 106 ± 7.3 × 106 cfu/mL. The mean Brix and temperature readings were 12.0 ± 2.1 Brix and 38.8 &usmn; 6.7°C. Three dairies that used sophisticated autofeeders had milk replacer liquid with a mean SPC of 1.3 × 106 ± 2.2 × 106 cfu/mL. Mean Brix and temperature readings were 10.3 ± 1.7 Brix and 38.6 ± 6.7°C. Differences could not be attributed to either management strategy or autofeeder type. This study suggests that implementation of management protocols was more important than autofeeder type or management strategy category.


K. L. Machado,* R. E. James, and M. L. McGilliard, Deptartment of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.