CalfOTel hutches number one choice at Annaghmore dairy

Maurice Wylie, right, Irwin Farm Supplies, discusses the health benefits of rearing calves in outdoor hutches with Joshua Ebron, herd manager at the Richardson family's Annaghmore Herd in County Armagh. Picture: Julie Hazelton
Maurice Wylie, right, Irwin Farm Supplies, discusses the health benefits of rearing calves in outdoor hutches with Joshua Ebron, herd manager at the Richardson family's Annaghmore Herd in County Armagh. Picture: Julie Hazelton

With the autumn calving season well underway County Tyrone-based company Irwin Farm Supplies is experiencing an unprecedented demand for its exclusive CalfOTel range of individual and group hutches.

Manufactured by Dutch company VDK Products, the world-renown CalfOTel range was launched in Northern Ireland less than twelve months ago.

“Irwin Farm Supplies is the sole agent for the CalfOTel range in Northern Ireland. Its product portfolio boasts a number of innovative outdoor calf rearing systems, including compact individual hutches, larger group hutches, and the revolutionary single unit which provides accommodation for up to four calves,” explained company director Nigel Irwin.

CalfOTel hutches are made from durable, fibre-glass reinforced polyester, and designed with three principles in mind – labour, welfare and growth. The hutches provide effective shelter, and sufficient ventilation, creating a microclimate for young calves.

Maurice Wylie from Irwin Farm Supplies added: “Calf rearing is a huge expense to any farm business, so it is crucial to nurture baby calves, especially in the first six weeks of life. Poor hygiene, diseases and scours all contribute to higher veterinary costs and increased mortality rates.”

County Armagh dairy herd owners Clive and Joel Richardson have opted for CalfOTel’s Comfort hutches at their 60-cow enterprise near Annaghmore. The pedigree Holstein herd was established in 2017, and is milked using a Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot.

Greenmount College graduate Joshua Ebron is responsible for the day-to-day management of the farm.

“The calves are reared in hutches from birth and are really thriving. Heifer calves are the foundation for the dairy herd, so it is vital they get off to a good start in life,” explained Joshua.

Successful calf rearing relies on a number of contributory factors including colostrum management, hygiene and a welfare-friendly environment. “It is essential for newborn calves to get antibodies from good quality colostrum. We also offer fresh hay, water and a scoop of meal from birth. The hay and wheat straw bedding helps to increase rumen development from an early age.”

Joshua gained extensive experience working on large dairy farms in England. “I have worked on units with modern purpose-built calf sheds, and up to 50 outdoor hutches.

“I have great faith in hutches. They provide a perfect environment, and offer added health and social benefits for young calves. Healthy calves convert their energy into growth, and you can really see the bloom on the calves. CalfOTel’s Comfort hutch measures 200 x 120 x 140 cm and is suitable for calves from birth to eight weeks of age. Wheels are incorporated in the plastic threshold to facilitate ease of movement, and each individual hutch comes complete with a patented galvanised fence measuring 150 x 200 x 100cm.

“The CalfOTel concept and design is very impressive,” added Joshua. “The surfaces are smooth to reduce bacteria, and easy to clean and disinfect. The folding fence is practical, and the roof apertures provide excellent ventilation.”

CalfOTel offers a wide selection of accessories including teat buckets and hay racks which are secured using a patented mulitilock system.

Joshua concluded: “The Combifeeder is great, and as the name suggests it combines a hay rack and feeding trough. It is designed to keep feed clean and dry. I also like the natural daylight and social aspects of the outdoor hutches. Calves have their own personal space, but can socially interact with neighbouring calves, and humans in the farmyard.”

To find out more about the CalfOTel® range contact Irwin Farm Supplies on tel: 028 3754 9998, or Maurice Wylie on 07900 255334.