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Automation in the calf barn for more animal welfare and work relief

2018.11.30.

Automation has become an indispensable part of the cow barn. So why not also benefit from the advantages of automated and networked systems in the calf barn? The German company Förster-Technik GmbH has been committed to modern, efficient calf rearing for almost 50 years and develops automated feeding systems that support the healthy growth of both calves and dairy farms.

 

At this year's EuroTier, Förster-Technik GmbH will be exhibiting many new products for calf rearing in Hall 13, Stand E11, and expanding its product portfolio with the unique HygieneBox, the antibacterial teat YelloTeat, the Milk Management System with Calf Milk Collector and Smart Tank, the Smart Thermometer and the new operating concept for our smart automatic feeders via CalfApp GO!. Anyone interested in our automatic calf feeder in action can visit BVN's stand C22 in Hall 15, where our calf feeder will be in operation live. Förster-Technik GmbH will also be represented at the DLG special "Digital Animal Farming" in Hall 26 with a stand and two lectures entitled "Digitization in calf rearing" and "Cloud computing - Digital tools in calf rearing".

Hygiene Box – maximum hygiene and natural drinking behavior

  • The ActivityBox introduced at EuroTier 2016 with fully automatic circulation cleaning of the suction hose and all milk-carrying parts has been extended with outer rinsing of the teat and is now marketed under the name HygieneBox. Förster-Technik GmbH is responding in this way to the increased hygiene requirements in calf rearing and is offering a product that is fitted with all cleaning and rinsing functions as standard for optimal hygiene:
  • Fully automatic suction hose cleaning: the complete hose system can be rinsed fully automatically several times a day, optionally with one or two detergents (alkaline, acidic). Thanks to the switchover valve located directly on the teat in the HygieneBox the return line is used exclusively for the circulation of the cleaning water, which is pumped through all milk-carrying parts. This has the advantage that there is NO need to pump over the feed and thus the proven Förster-Technik principle of the shortest possible and direct transport route of the feed to the teat is retained.
  • Rinsing the teat from the outside: after EVERY calf, the teat is optimally rinsed with water from the outside via nozzles whose angle is adjustable. Organic material is rinsed off and pathogen chains are interrupted!
  • Rinsing the teat from the inside: during the fully automatic cleaning of the suction hose, the teat is also integrated into the rinsing process and rinsed up to the tip.
  • Draining of milk and saliva residues: via the draining bowl, which is located below the HygieneBox. Milk and saliva residues are drained outside of the calf area and the draining bowl is rinsed clean.

 

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The teat on the HygieneBox is pivotable, allowing the calves to practice their natural drinking behavior. The impacts are recorded electronically by the activity sensor, which is built into the HygieneBox, and is transferred to the Förster-Technik CalfCloud. There it can be easily and conveniently viewed by the farmer - including from the office. Health problems can thus be identified at an early stage. The HygieneBox is characterized by its bright and open design, which has a very inviting effect for the calf, encouraging it to go inside. The farmer saves valuable labor time due to the automatic training function of the HygieneBox: If a new calf is registered in the feeding station, the HygieneBox automatically dispenses a small drinking amount the first time the teat is touched. The calf quickly learns to use the feeding station independently, even when the farmer is not in the barn. The tool-free replacement of the teat is a further labor time-saving advantage of the HygieneBox. The smooth surfaces of the built-in components are especially conducive to maintenance and cleaning.

The innovative HygieneBox provides optimal hygiene from the automatic feeders to the teat tip!

YelloTeat – the antibacterial teat

The YelloTeat is another important element for improving hygiene in calf feeding. It has an antibacterial function that reduces bacteria by up to 99.9%*. The YelloTeat can be used at any Förster-Technik feeding station. The yellow signal colour is used for easy differentiation from conventional teats.

*proven by an independent test laborator

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Milk Collector

With the new Milk Collector, the collection and conveying of fresh milk for calves is done fully automatically. The Milk Collector thereby solves a frequently occurring problem for innovative dairy farms with automatic milking systems. How should milk from cows, for example, whose milk cannot yet be sold in the days after they calved, be conveyed to calves simply, hygienically and without defects?

Previously, the manufacturers of milking robots at best offered optional systems in which this milk is pumped into buckets at the milking robots. These buckets can sometimes hold 20 kg of milk and must then be brought to the calves manually. The milk is not cooled there, which presents a serious problem in summer, as milk is a sensitive feed that spoils quickly. Moreover, the buckets are usually not closed, meaning that flies can get in the milk. If more cows with milk for calves are milked at the robots, sometimes the number of buckets (approx. 3-4) is not sufficient.

This is where the Milk Collector comes into play, which quite simply is put under the second, so-called 'calf milk' tap of the robot and connected to an inlet nozzle in the lid via a tube. This prevents flies getting into the milk.

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How exactly does the Milk Collector work? As soon as a cow whose milk should come out of the second tap is milked, the Milk Collector detects this milk using its built-in bottom electrode. The high-performance stainless steel pump then begins to move and pumps the milk in real time directly via a semi-flexible Teflon tube to the milk tank where the calves are. The special thing about the Teflon tube is its smooth inner surface, which prevents deposits from building up. The pump can pump to distances up to 100 meters. If the bottom electrode is free again, and there is no more milk for 60 seconds, the integrated control system automatically begins the rinsing process. Then the line is completely dried by pulsating pressurized air cleaning. Practically no milk residue remains in the line or tank. Now the Milk Collector is completely empty and clean again, until the next cow with 'calf milk' is milked in the milking robot.

The Milk Collector can be well integrated into the optimal, automated Milk Management System from Förster-Technik, since ideally a cooling tank such as the newly introduced Smart Tank, also from Förster-Technik, is installed in the dairy, which in turn is connected to an automatic feeder. This Smart Tank holds 300 liters and is integrated into the automatic cleaning of the automatic feeder, i.e. it automatically cleans itself daily using the smart automatic calf feeder from Förster-Technik. The automatic calf feeder in the so-called combi design then takes milk from the Smart Tank and feeds the calves round the clock.

The Milk Collector can be combined with any milking robot without any adjustment and can also be easily retrofitted. With the 50 liter stainless steel tank as a receiving tank and the strong milk pump, it has enough capacity to receive and forward on 'calf milk' from up to eight milking robots.

What are the special advantages of the Milk Collector in practice? The practical significance is mainly with regard to being able to provide valuable milk for the calves, and significantly reducing labor effort. With conventional milking systems, the cows with 'calf milk' are usually milked after the 'normal' cows. This means that the 'calf milk' is only collected twice a day at known times and then transported to the calves. In dairies with milking robots, it is not possible to know when cows with 'calf milk are being milked by the robots, so this milk is distributed practically over 24 hours.

With the Milk Collector, now even dairies using robots can supply their calves with milk using automatic feeders and save labor. The welfare of the animals is improved through group housing, and the genetic potential of the calves is better exploited through feeding them with large quantities of high-quality milk.
With the Milk Collector, the manual process or carrying of full buckets to the calves is no longer necessary, meaning that the health of workers is protected and labor can be saved.

Through the transporting of the milk in real time to a cooling tank, the valuable foodstuff keeps better. Thanks to the powerful pump in the Milk Collector, the standard long distances between the milking robots and the calf barn are easily overcome. In addition, the automatic process guarantees a reproducible quality of the milk that is such an important foodstuff for the calf, regardless of the workload of the employees.

The Milk Collector is an important and unique module within the Milk Management System, which can be put together quite individually and can incorporate already existing components in dairies!

Smart Thermometer

In health monitoring and to assess the current state of health of livestock, the recording and evaluation of body temperature is of particular importance, since most sicknesses and stressful situation result in a change in body temperature.

Usually, the measurement is done rectally using a standard fever thermometer. The values measured are an important part of diagnostics. However, they are usually not stored long-term and viewed in relation to other parameters.

 

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With the development of the Smart Thermometer, Förster-Technik GmbH is breaking new ground. The Smart Thermometer is used as was previously standard. The temperature measurement is done rectally, within a few seconds. An acoustic signal indicates that the measurement is complete and the result appears of the integrated display. To this extent it is no different to previous devices and does not require new knowledge to operate. In addition, the Smart Thermometer has a Bluetooth communications unit. This enables connection to any standard smartphone or tablet as well as the Smart Calf System infrastructure from Förster-Technik.

This means that the measured values can be individually assigned, stored long-term and evaluated in relation to other vital parameters. In combination with the CalfApp VITAL from Förster-Technik, the animals can be selected using selection filters or by entering a number. The measured values are assigned immediately and so they cannot be mixed up to the relevant animal following confirmation and stored long-term in the Förster-CalfCloud. They are therefore available to the farmer at any time for analysis.

In another extension level, it is possible to connect the thermometer to an automatic animal identification system or Smart Neckband. This makes the Smart Thermometer an integrated module of the Smart Calf System and means it can be integrated into the workflow. A calf with a health alarm which was triggered by other parameters such as drinking intake, suction speed and activity, appears automatically on the list of animals to be measured. The neckband of this calf blinks on command. The temperature measured with the Smart Thermometer is assigned to the calf and its health status is reassessed in combination with the other parameters. The farmer and/or vet receive useful information to support their diagnostics.

The Smart Thermometer is a further component in the digitization of livestock farming and opens up many possibilities for extended use of standard body temperature measurement to support diagnostics and stock analysis.

CalfApp GO! for simple and intuitive operation of VARIO and COMPACT smart calf feeders

With the new CalfApp GO! for VARIO and COMPACT smart the company Förster-Technik GmbH presents a new, modern and intuitive operating concept. The operation of the calf feeder can, in addition to the proven handheld terminal, be carried out via a tablet, which - freely selectable - is either permanently installed in the existing tablet holder on the right side of the feeder or remains flexible with the farmer. The tablet holder is designed for a tablet size of up to 10 inches. It is robust, barn-suitable and also serves as a USB charging station for the tablet. If you do not want to use a tablet for operation, you can also use other mobile devices with touch screens (Android and Apple IOS). The principle is very simple and flexible. The calf feeder is connected to the mobile device. The operator intuitively moves through the very clear user interface and menus via the CalfApp.

 

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Smart Neckband - fit or not, the light shows!

The Smart Neckband, which was awarded the DLG Gold Medal at EuroTier 2016, has been further developed and revised in line with practical suggestions and requirements. The highly innovative electronic fitness collar from Förster-Technik GmbH has been specially developed for calves. It is used for automated monitoring of the calves' health and development by recording their activity. An LED lamp at the top of the neck, which can be controlled from the system, provides the farmer with variable information directly on the animal and enables him to carry out simple and effective work processes. The smart collars are connected to the CalfCloud, to which the recorded data is transmitted.

What's new is that the Smart Neckband's LED sensor module can be opened very conveniently to attach the collar to it. A newly designed charging station, which is very easy to attach to a suitable position on a wall, for example, allows several LED sensor modules to be charged simultaneously without removing the collars.

 

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