Streamlined Efficiencies with Förster-Technik

Published on Tue, 08/18/2015 - 12:33pm

By Maura Keller

For more than 40 years, Förster-Technik has been offering successful and practical calf feeding and group housing solutions to the agricultural community throughout the world. Founded in 1971 by Mr. Martin Förster, the father of the current CEOs Markus and Thomas Förster, this family-owned company boasts 110 employees and is based in Engen, South Germany.
Throughout its history, Förster-Technik has garnered numerous patents and awards demonstrating the company’s prowess in the field of technology. But the innovative breakthrough that catapulted the company to its leading status in the history was the introduction of the first stand-alone automatic feeder in the late 1980s. With its integrated process, this feeder allowed users to independently execute all of the important calf feeding functions. Today, Förster-Technik continues to be the driving force of innovation in the industry.

Expanding Horizons

Unique advantages of the Förster-Technik automatic calf feeders

  • Always freshly prepared feed portions
  • Always precise feed temperature
  • Always accurate dosing of all feed components
  • Gentle, rapid and reliable dissolution of the feed
  • Simultaneous feeding of up to 128 calves at up to 4 feeding stations
  • Automatic, individual feeding of individually penned calves
  • Automatic calibration
  • All animals at a glance – 24/7 – with CalfApp & CalfCloud

Benefits of CalfRail

Healthy growth

  • Accelerated weight gains through up to eight feedings/day
  • Healthy calves with freshly prepared, age-appropriate portions at optimum feed temperature

Less work/Optimum hygiene

  • Hard physical labor of lugging buckets eliminated
  • Tedious routine manual tasks (bucket cleaning, etc.) eliminated
  • Automatic cleaning before and after every feeding cycle
  • Optional teat cleaning

Time savings

  • The automatic feeder handles feed preparation, pumping and feeding itself.
  • Flexible scheduling of daytime control tasks
  • Faster training through mutual observation

Effective in use

  • Individual and group pen housing in combination
  • Controlled feeding through animal-specific consumption

When Förster-Technik first started its business in North America in the 1990s, group housing and automatic calf feeding in general was fairly unknown. Rather, bucket feeding in single hutches was the only way of feeding calves. As automatic feeding options were introduced, farmers, veterinarians, and researchers were skeptical that this way of housing and feeding calves could work successfully.
The challenge for Förster-Technik was not just to place new equipment into a marketplace, but also to convince the professionals that this new calf-rearing concept—based on group housing—would also work under North American conditions. As a team, Förster-Technik and the company’s sales partners in Canada and the U.S. managed to introduce group housing systems with Förster-Technik calf feeders in North America and to make it a success. The rest, as they say, is history.


The 40FIT Technology: Strong Calves, Strong Cows
Intensive calf feeding in the first weeks after birth has a positive effect on vitality, fertility, output and lifespan of the animal as a grown cow. During the first week of the calf‘s life, the foundations are laid to ensure that the genetic potential can be fully exploited.
As a specialist in calf feeding, Förster-Technik offers the 40FIT Technology: innovative products and concepts that optimally support the growth of calves at this crucial stage — creating the perfect conditions for healthy, high-yielding, long-living cows and more efficient dairy farming.
During the first two weeks of a calf’s life, they are normally housed in individual pens. As such, frequent feeding, according to the 40FIT Technology, is crucial. Here’s why: At that age feed conversion is even better, so that a higher feed intake allows a better start in life.
With manual and mechanized bucket feeding, intensive raising of calves in individual pens is not feasible for cost reasons. As part of the company’s 40FIT Technology products and accessories, CalfRail is a proven technical solution for the automated animal-specific feeding of individually penned calves in small, freshly prepared servings up to eight times a day. This sets the stage for maximum growth, optimal feed utilization, optimal ruminant growth and sustained output.
During the first 40 days of life, calves are fed more milk as a result of practical experience and scientific studies proving that this makes calves grow better and healthier thus achieving significantly higher milk yields as a dairy cow.

CalfRail: Optimum Care for Individually Penned Calves
Young calves may consume more than ten liters per day of milk—a vast amount for many agricultural operations. The question facing Förster-Technik’s team of product developers was how to administer such feed amounts to individually penned calves without overstretching the intake capacity of the animals or losing large residual amounts of milk.
What’s more, with traditional bucket feeding, intensive calf raising is not feasible at a reasonable cost.
So Förster-Technik developed the CalfRail which automatically feeds individually penned calves with animal-specific quantities in small, freshly prepared portions up to eight times a day. Immediately after the colostrum stage, the calf can be trained and fed on CalfRail. This creates optimal conditions for intensive raising in the very first days of life.
Specifically, CalfRail consists of a mobile suction unit and a rail system. Förster-Technik’s Vario-automatic calf feeder is used as a control and mixing unit. In this way farmers can combine feeding in groups and in individual pens — automatically.
In the particular calf pen the feed is provided for each individual calf in small, freshly prepared portions. In this way it is possible to raise the calves intensively without having to acidify the milk and without any waste due to surplus amounts and storage buckets. CalfRail is able to supply fresh milk as well as powder milk feed.
A CalfRail unit is able to feed fully automatically up to 32 calves up to eight times per day. A servo-controlled hose pump delivers the feed actively into the teat. This enables young calves to quickly learn and makes it easier for them to consume the feed throughout the entire feeding period. Feed consumption and drinking speed can be checked on the automatic feeder at the push of a button.
In order to make maximum use of calves‘ growth during the first days of life, it is possible to define a corresponding 40FIT plan in the automatic feeder. During this time, the calf is provided with the physiologically optimum feed quantity and portion size.
The CalfRail is supplied by the automatic feeder which takes over feed preparation, feed dispense and cleaning — automatically. The time-consuming job of manually cleaning buckets and utensils is now a thing of the past.
“The chief benefits of CalfRail are reduced workload, time savings, and punctual calf feeding four times a day,” says Michael Franz from Bavaria, Southern Germany. “So we now need two hours less work with the calves per day on 45 to 50 calves. Using CalfRail it only takes one person to attend to the calves instead of two. We have been feeding our group-penned calves using the Förster-Technik automatic feeder since 2008, so it was easy to get going with the new system. After the single-pen phase you just reassign the calves to the group on the automatic feeder.”
In addition, the farmer is able to work with much greater flexibility because the animals can be checked independently of time and place. And in the spirit of the 40FIT Technology, Förster-Technik has focused on intensively feeding and caring for the calves along the lines of nature, while also integrating the highest technological advancements to simplify the process for the farmer.
In fact, the CalfRail system in combination with the automatic calf feeder will lower the daily routine work and fixed care times often required. Förster-Technik consistently focuses on incorporating apps and the Internet into their system to provide information from anywhere and at any time. Extensive monitoring functions on the automatic feeder, including PC or mobile device support operative management and make it possible to comfortably check the development of the calves independent of where the farmer may be. With the CalfCloud from Förster-Technik you keep an eye on your calves — 24/7 from any location.
Thomas Gögler, from Bavaria, Southern Germany found that integrating CalfRail into his existing, older barn facility where his calves are raised, was a simple, streamlined process.
“Training the calves on CalfRail also is easy,” Gögler says. “Our calves are fed three times a day on CalfRail. CalfRail means calf feeding is much less work than with buckets. All that hard physical labor is eliminated.”

Focused on Success
To determine the success of the CalfRail system, Förster-Technik conducted a study with the Grober Young Animal Development Centre (GYADC) in Woodstock, Canada for a two-year period (2013 & 2014). The results of the study showed an average daily weight gain of over 1.1 kg/day. An accelerated ten week feeding program of 12.5 L/day, over five meals per day with ten individually housed calves was the study’s purpose. Additional research going on this year confirmed a daily weight gain higher than 1 kg/day.
Jan Ziemerink, who represents Förster-Technik in North America and is based in Ontario, Canada, says the first results of CalfRail’s success in North America are better than expected.
As Ziemerink explains, the weight gains are from 1.1 to 1.2 kg per calf per day (2.5-2.6 lbs). The mortality is below 0.5% and very few treatments are necessary. The calves drink on average 11 to 12.5 liters almost 100% (i.e. 2.5 liters/5 times a day before they start the weaning process).
“Farmers are very satisfied with the CalfRail so far and tell me they have never seen calves this large and healthy,” Ziemerink says. “It is still early and we are still making improvements to the CalfRail but we are very excited about the product and its future together with the automatic calf feeder and grouped calves.”  
After 25 years, Kai-Uwe Eisenhut from Saxony, Eastern Germany found that it was time to replace the calf feeder line on his farm. Previously his igloo calves had been bucket-fed with whole milk three times a day.
“Changing the feeding regime over to powder and introducing the new device eliminated a lot of manual work,” Eisenhut says. “The best thing though is that the calves now get milk of even temperature in the winter. The 40FIT program enables us to raise calves applying the latest scientific insights. Changing the supplemental feed ration increased daily gain significantly in the raising period up to 100 days.”
Förster-Technik recognizes that farmers will more and more fight with the availability of resources like land and water. Therefore high production costs, including labor, will force the farmers in the future to achieve high labor productivity and to have efficient management tools available to make good and fast decisions.
“This will only be possible by introducing further automation as well as reliable and innovative concepts for production,” says Markus Straub, head of sales at Förster-Technik. “This is exactly the situation Förster-Technik is prepared to meet. Our 40FIT concept perfectly fits to these needs. It offers a solution for rearing calves the most intensively. It also combines the know-how of nutritionists, technical solutions from Förster-Technik like the special “40FIT-plan,” automatic calibration or temperature-controlled feeding. In addition, the 40FIT concept offers tools for better monitoring and management of calves. Our aim of 40FIT is to assist the farmers to achieve optimum growth of their calves and to create a healthier and more efficient dairy cow.”  

see us at upcoming trade shows
At Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, on September 15, 16, 17, 2015, in Woodstock, in the GYADC (Grober Young Animal Development Center), the CalfRail will be in action with two live feedings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day. Förster-Technik will also exhibit at WDE this year. The booth is in the New Holland Trade Center, Booth No. TC915.