CALFSTAR: Streamlined Feeding for Calves

Published on Tue, 08/18/2015 - 12:50pm

By Maura Keller

Keeping dairy herds healthy and milk quality high is top of mind for all dairymen. Recent scientific studies have shown that treating calves to an effective feeding program as early as possible in the first weeks of their life, can result in considerably higher milk production. Since its inception, New Franken, Wi-based Calf-Star has worked with thousands of farmers to incorporate the company’s calf milk pasteurizers and automatic feeding systems into their production processes to ensure their calves receive the highest quality milk diet available. As the only company that offers a complete calf-feeding solution, Calf-Star started out as a milking equipment dealer in Northeast Wisconsin.  “Customers were asking for a way to feed whole milk to their calves without endangering their health,” says Greg Abts, owner of Calf-Star. “Their bull calves were getting raw milk and looked nicer than the heifer calves. This is when we started making small compact pasteurizers.”
Calf-Star’s first model of pasteurizer was an HTST two-gallon per minute large frame pasteurizer.  Today, Calf-Star manufactures a wide variety of calf milk pasteurizers, automatic calf feeders, milk cooling tanks, and vehicle dispenser tanks. They also provide instant calf facilities and instant milk testing devices.
While Calf Star provides all aspects of proper calf feeding systems, their key products include a variety of different pasteurizer models to best suit each dairy’s needs.  The company recognizes that calves’ future potential is dependent on the quality of early nutrition they are given. Proper nutrition, provided in an extremely clean environment can improve early mortality rates. In addition, optimized feeding programs, can help calves produce 10% to 20% more milk.
“We customize our calf milk pasteurizers to whatever you may need to feed your calves,” Abts says.
Jim Toop of Beaverbrook Farms worked with Calf-Star to incorporate a feed system that worked perfectly with his needs and the needs of his specific herd.  “We had thought about purchasing a milk pasteurizer for our calves in the past, and so when we recently switched to a robotic milking system, the MilkTaxi was an easy choice as it integrated perfectly with the rest of our system. The MilkTaxi allows us to feed our calves more efficiently and precisely, and it is so easy to use, anybody can feed the calves without hassle.”
Although the company’s Milk Taxi calf milk pasteurizer and dispenser is a favorite among many dairy farms, Calf-Star is the United States distributor for the renowned Holm & Laue calf feeder from Germany, and it is this feeder that has dairy farmers taking notice.
As Abts explains, Holm & Laue offers the H&L 100 feeder to help feed dairy calves efficiently and effectively. Holm & Laue also carries a milk taxi, which is a batch milk pasteurizer for easier and quicker calf feeding. The Holm & Laue (H&L) products Calf-Star sells are cost beneficial and save time on your dairy.
“Holm & Laue’s programmable calf feeder provides whole milk and group feeding, for healthier calves,” Abts says. “This feeder consists of stainless steel construction and can feed 100 to 120 calves with just one unit.” The H&L 100 feeder is programmable and offers liquid and powder dosing options, as well as a whole milk delivery option. To maintain the health of each herd, the system’s automatic CIP system rinses the feeding tubes between each calf. In addition, an optional second mixer bowl allows two calves to drink at once.

Customization is Key
Calf-Star is truly the one-stop-resource for calf feeding as it is the only company in the U.S. that offers a complete calf feeding solution. Currently Calf Star’s best-selling products consist of pasteurizers, milk jugs, and automatic calf feeders.
“What is unique about Calf Star is that we have the ability to customize our products to fit any farmer’s need,” Abts says. For example, Calf Star offers different options to each machine to fit each farms needs.
The H&L 100 automatic calf feeder is designed to be robust and for the large calf grower and dairy. “However, these machines also fit nicely in smaller operations,” Abts says. To meet the specific needs of a farm and its herd, the H&L 100 offers flexible feeding programs whereby five different feeding programs for every single calf are available for maximum flexibility.
“All Calf-Star support products, such as the Milk Jug and our pasteurizers, were built around the H&L Automatic Calf Feeding System. Our products also revolve around an excellent automatic cleaning system. The H&L 100 is the only system that can do well with whole milk because of its unique cleaning system. The newest hygiene stall will also aid in exceptional cleaning because it can clean the outside of the nipple as well.”
Specifically, after every visit by a calf, the mixer bowl and the tubing to the teat are rinsed with clear water, preventing any milk residues in the system. And while the H&L 100 starts a wash cycle automatically at least twice a day, it can be adjusted to automatically wash the system more frequently if calves are on a whole milk diet.
To further ensure the proper hygiene of the H&L 100 feeding system, two large doors protect the critical compartment in which the mixer bowls are installed. This keeps flies away from the milk, thereby also avoiding plugged milk-feeding lines.

Continuous Improvement
Since its inception, Calf-Star has been dedicated to providing dairies and dairymen the products they need at a fair price.
As part of the company’s goal to provide the best products for maintaining healthy calves, Calf-Star pays close attention to industry changes that may alter the needs of the farms they serve.
“We are now seeing a trend whereby farmers are feeding calves more times per day to get more energy in the calf to grow, especially in the winter months,” Abts says. “By using the H&L 100 automatic calf feeder you can do this without adding extra labor.”
While offering healthy feeding options to calves is top of mind for farmers, they also are focused on their bottom line. As Abts explains, generally speaking, the cost of the H&L 100 calf feeder is approximately the same as what individual feed stalls cost.
“There is also a benefit from group feeding, especially as they transition into their next part of life,” Abts says. “The transition is smoother.”
While Calf-Star strives to provide the best calf feeding systems, the company continues to make their equipment more efficient and functioning in a way that streamlines the feeding process. An example of their efforts is the impressive efficiency of the Calf-Star HTST pasteurizer, which is becoming more relevant as energy costs continue to climb. A typical HTST pasteurizer is 40% more energy efficient than a batch pasteurizer.
The company has also embraced product improvement by offering the new hygiene stall for the H&L 100 feeder to customers.
“This stall will always keep the teat clean,” Abts says. “The teat will clean on the outside after each visit. With the hygiene stall it is also easier for the calf to learn the machine. As soon as the calf lifts the teat, a small amount of milk flows into its mouth. This stimulates the calf’s drink impulse and manual learning is no longer necessary.”
Calf-Star is passionate about their products and are eager to continually serve the needs of today’s dairies, while maintaining the health and viability of the calves being raised.