Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production, Posieux

Automatic feeder or bucket drinker for calf fattening?

The main methods available for feeding fattening calves are „bucket drinkers“ and „automatic feeders“. Both feeding methods were compared within the scope of two trials at the Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production of Posieux (RAP). A study was carried out to determine the impact of both feeding methods on fodder consumption, fattening yields, economic efficiency and of labour economy. The trials were conducted in two groups each comprising respectively 17 (1st trial) and 18 animals (2nd trial). In the first trial, a standard ration of identical quality and quantity consisting of full fat milk and a milk replacer was given by bucket drinker (twice daily) and by automatic feeder (at least four rations daily). In the second trial, under the same conditions as in the first trial, the animals were provided with full fat milk ad libitum together with a supplementary feed of minerals and vitamins. In addition rolled barley was offered also ad libitum. The average daily feed consumption of the animals fed by bucket drinker was significantly higher than the automatic feeder variant. In the groups with the bucket drinker variant, the daily weight increase was correspondingly higher and the fattening period was considerably reduced. The advantages of the bucket drinker in respect of better fattening yields gave a higher contribution margin per kg milk. Even if manual feeding by bucket drinker means a higher working time requirement per calf per fattening day, the overall working time requirement per calf per fattening cycle as well as per fattening place is lower than with automatic feeding.

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