Feedback from farmers drove Calf-Tel to redesign individual calf housing equipment. The new design is easier to access and clean.
New products for efficiency and profitability.
Spend time talking to the people responsible for designing all the neat and nifty products and services on display in World Dairy Expo’s (WDE) Trade Show, and you’ll sense a common thread. In many cases, direct input from farmers is what moves these products from the concept stage to marketplace reality.
Listening to dairy farmers describe the shortcomings of the cattle panels traditionally used as fencing for individual calf hutches planted the seeds for the design of Calf-Tel’s new premium fence system. The company introduced the system to the world dairy market at WDE in 2013.
"The panel-style fences used on many U.S. dairies are affordable and can get the job done," says Joe Weber, Calf-Tel marketing manager. "But we also felt there was a need for a premium, heavy duty fencing system offering greater efficiency, flexibility and durability."The Calf-Tel system, made of extremely rugged and durable galvanized steel, was developed in Germany in 2006 by Bernd Kleiner, the company’s European business development manager.
"When we talked about this to family farmers in Europe, they told us that getting in to the pens to work with calves was often difficult, especially for older and younger people on the farm. And the panels made cleaning much more difficult."
To address the access issue, Kleiner designed a fully functional front door that opens inward and outward. "It allows for one-hand operation, so the manager or worker can easily access the animal in the fenced area," he notes, adding that a dual-lock feature on the door ensures calves will stay put while workers are busy in the pens.
To facilitate more efficient cleaning, the fence folds in and over the calf hutch. Two mounted wheels and rugged feet brackets make the entire fence extremely mobile.
"Compared to panels, there isn’t much labor involved," Kleiner says. "With a forklift or a skid steer, you can easily move the entire fence to a wash area, clean and disinfect it and then move it back to where you want it."
Getting the concept from the design stage to the marketplace involved extensive field-testing. "That’s the advantage to working with a welded product," Kleiner says. "We would make several prototypes at a time, then take them out to farms for testing and listen to the farmers about what features worked well and what needed improvement. Then we would take that information and make our modifications. In the end, that resulted in the kind of product we were sure farmers would want because in many ways they were the ones who finalized the design."
A cloud-based platform allows Farmeron’s farmer-clients to share production information with their entire farm management team.
A similar approach went into bringing Farmeron’s revolutionary, cloud-based farm management system to market. Computer programmer Matt Kopic came up with the idea while watching his father, the owner of a small farm in Croatia, struggle with farm record-keeping chores.
"The records were all spread out in many different places—notebooks, computer files and spreadsheets," explains Dave Saunders, vice president of business development at Farmeron. "It was hard for him to organize that information and get a good handle on how his farm was doing as a business."
Kopic founded Farmeron in 2010, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Zagreb University. His goal was to integrate all the different software, services and computer equipment that farmers were using for different record-keeping activities on their farms. It would give farmers a complete picture of what was happening in their business and enable them to make solid management decisions.
- August 2014