Equipment

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New calf and beef research facility

On 6 April 2016, Trouw Nutrition (a Nutreco company) opened a brand new research facility for calves and beef cattle in the Netherlands. With this new facility the company is expanding its capacity to carry out in-depth animal nutrition studies.

At the already existing Kempenshof facility nearby, Trouw Nutrition has been doing nutrition research for over 3 years already, focusing on the LifeStart nutrition programme and its effect on calf health and milk production. [Photos: Trouw Nutrition]

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  • The new facility has been built on an existing research site for swine and is equipped to house 90 beef cattle and 130 calves. In one section animals are housed in individual pens and in a different room they are housed in groups and feed with automatic systems. Furthermore there is a dedicated section available for digestion and metabolism research.

    The new facility has been built on an existing research site for swine and is equipped to house 90 beef cattle and 130 calves. In one section animals are housed in individual pens and in a different room they are housed in groups and feed with automatic systems. Furthermore there is a dedicated section available for digestion and metabolism research.

  • Unique to this new facility is the supply of calves. Dairy farms in the area are contracted to rearing their calves according to strict protocols regarding colostrum intake and health checks. The calves are picked up within 3 days of birth with special transport vehicles.

    Unique to this new facility is the supply of calves. Dairy farms in the area are contracted to rearing their calves according to strict protocols regarding colostrum intake and health checks. The calves are picked up within 3 days of birth with special transport vehicles.

  • The beef cattle are divided into 4 pens, each housing 20 animals. The animals can be kept between 200 and 1000 kg, Depending on the type of research and trial objectives, the diversity of feeding approaches in global beef production can be reproduced with the possibilities of the feeding equipment. Both the beef cattle and the calf facility are equipped with mechanical ventilation to control temperature and humidity.

    The beef cattle are divided into 4 pens, each housing 20 animals. The animals can be kept between 200 and 1000 kg, Depending on the type of research and trial objectives, the diversity of feeding approaches in global beef production can be reproduced with the possibilities of the feeding equipment. Both the beef cattle and the calf facility are equipped with mechanical ventilation to control temperature and humidity.

  • The pens are equipped with a lying area of straw. Behind the feeders, there are concrete slats with a rubber top layer. Each pen has an electronic forage feeder with a weighing device. Furthermore, each pen has 2 concentrate feeders for different types of pellets and liquid supplements. This way, the animals can be fed individually.

    The pens are equipped with a lying area of straw. Behind the feeders, there are concrete slats with a rubber top layer. Each pen has an electronic forage feeder with a weighing device. Furthermore, each pen has 2 concentrate feeders for different types of pellets and liquid supplements. This way, the animals can be fed individually.

  • The resting area is spacious and equipped with cow brushes.

    The resting area is spacious and equipped with cow brushes.

  • The feeders weigh the feed so accurately that light roughage like hay and straw can also be fed with these machines. The researchers can mimic different production systems with these bins, such as the American or southern European feedlot systems or extensive grazing systems, as seen in South America. Each animal has an ear sensor that monitors how often, when, how long and how much the animal consumes each time.

    The feeders weigh the feed so accurately that light roughage like hay and straw can also be fed with these machines. The researchers can mimic different production systems with these bins, such as the American or southern European feedlot systems or extensive grazing systems, as seen in South America. Each animal has an ear sensor that monitors how often, when, how long and how much the animal consumes each time.

  • The calf area consists of 4 group pens, with 8 to 12 calves per pen. The pen consists of a resting area on flax and a section with concrete grates with a rubber top layer. Each pen is equipped with 4 fully automatic feeding stations. With this, calves have access to 2 types of roughage, 4 types of concentrate and up to 4 types of calf milk replacer and water. In addition, calves can be automatically weighed while drinking milk. The high level of automation is unique in this research facility and makes it possible to track individual animals with minimal intervention.

    The calf area consists of 4 group pens, with 8 to 12 calves per pen. The pen consists of a resting area on flax and a section with concrete grates with a rubber top layer. Each pen is equipped with 4 fully automatic feeding stations. With this, calves have access to 2 types of roughage, 4 types of concentrate and up to 4 types of calf milk replacer and water. In addition, calves can be automatically weighed while drinking milk. The high level of automation is unique in this research facility and makes it possible to track individual animals with minimal intervention.

  • In the concentrates feeding bin (left), up to 4 different types of feed can be provided. The milk station next to it provides the calves with milk replacer. Bespoke milk stations are able to supply 4 different milks to any calf in any of the 4 pens, which was tailor-made for our facility and is worldwide seen as a unique feature. In addition, several feeding schedules can be compared with each other.

    In the concentrates feeding bin (left), up to 4 different types of feed can be provided. The milk station next to it provides the calves with milk replacer. Bespoke milk stations are able to supply 4 different milks to any calf in any of the 4 pens, which was tailor-made for our facility and is worldwide seen as a unique feature. In addition, several feeding schedules can be compared with each other.

  • The machines are located next to the pens where the milk is mixed and heated. Via heated pipes, the milk is directly supplied in the correct automatic feeder.

    The machines are located next to the pens where the milk is mixed and heated. Via heated pipes, the milk is directly supplied in the correct automatic feeder.

  • Water intake is also measured. Calves have unlimited access to water.

    Water intake is also measured. Calves have unlimited access to water.

  • In addition to the group housing, the facility also has an individual unit with room for 60 calves. The pens are equipped with a separate resting area with mattress and sawdust. One part has a rubber slatted floor. This section allows for the study of calf development from birth through to a body weight of 100kg offering milk, starter feeds or forage treatments to individual calves.

    In addition to the group housing, the facility also has an individual unit with room for 60 calves. The pens are equipped with a separate resting area with mattress and sawdust. One part has a rubber slatted floor. This section allows for the study of calf development from birth through to a body weight of 100kg offering milk, starter feeds or forage treatments to individual calves.

  • With the individual housing system, all supplied feed and water is measured each day.

    With the individual housing system, all supplied feed and water is measured each day.

Anne-Marie van der Linde and Emmy Koeleman

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