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‘There is no other harness available in the world that can be left on the cow’

That’s Farming speaks to Paul Dillon, managing director of calfpens.i.e., about its range of innovative products.  

They say, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and that belief is the driving force behind Paul Dillon’s thriving business, calfpens.ie.

In December 2019, the Rathkeale, County Limerick, native founded the company to “encourage farmers to be more conscious of preventing disease than treating it”.

The firm stocks an array of products, including those that “will reduce disease incidents in calves and subsequently boost their lifetime profitability”.

Its range includes modular calf pens, calf hutches, cow shackles and cow lifting harnesses. It also offers complete colostrum testing, a storing and feeding kit, colostrum storage bags, Crypt-Occur and slurry storage solutions.

Speaking to That’s Farming, Paul Dillon, said: “I saw an opening. I thought the calf rearing systems being promoted in Ireland, while we are mostly focusing on labour reduction, there was less focus on animal health.”

Dairy farming, calf rearing

Calf pens

The managing director outlined how the modular pens are ideal for placing in a shed, while calf hutches have a roof, allowing them to be placed outdoors, providing an additional option for farmers.

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The company’s calf modular pens and calf hutches retail at €400 (excluding VAT), a price that includes all buckets and attachments.

Animal Health Ireland has evaluated various housing different systems, as Paul has outlined on his website here.

“Animal Health Ireland is stating individual housing of dairy calves, either indoors or outside, is generally linked with improved calf health. This is the essence of why I got into bringing in these pens because everything was advocating buying an automatic feeder, feed 120 calves in 20 minutes; it should not happen if it does have problems.”

“A calf under 3-weeks old is a baby; you cannot cut too many corners. If you do, you will run into health problems.”

calf hutches, farming, dairy farming

Disease prevention

Paul highlighted that farmers generally use individual modular pens or calf hutches for younger calves for an initial first three weeks, but some will utilise them for a more extended period.

“Animal Health Ireland, on one of their brochures, outlines the best way to avoid cryptosporidium in calves is to rear your calves individually for two weeks.”

“I sell a feed supplement for cryptosporidium and get phone calls from farmers looking for the product but not one of them are keeping their calves individual for two weeks, which is the basic thing to do.”

“We cannot continue to treat disease when it is much easier to prevent it,” Dillion added.

Cow lifting harness

Currently, Dillon sells calf pens throughout Ireland while also manufacturing and selling a cow lifting harness for injured cows. Its products have reached countries including Germany, Holland, and Switzerland.

Calfpens.i.e. “acknowledge the value of cows” and have been manufacturing this product for 30 years.

They have altered the hardness over time and believe that the product is now the best option for lifting downer cows.

“The biggest problem asked about is how you put the harness on the cow; you need two people to put it on the cow, but on a lot of farms, there are not two people there all the time.”

“The cow must be lifted three-times a day to keep their circulation going while she is going through the natural healing process of the injury.”

“The harness will not fix the damage she has done due to calving that has to heal naturally. It keeps the circulation in the rest of her limbs active while the inflammation from calving is reseeding.”

“The big advantage is that you can leave our harness on the cow. There is no other harness available in the world that can be left on the cow.”

“The farmer can get help when putting the harness on the cow the first time. One person can then manage the cow on their own after that. I sent a harness to Australia. The farmer is researching as he has never seen a harness made that can stay on the cow.”

cow lifting harness, dairy farming,

A crusade

Furthermore, Linton and Robinson Environmental Ltd recently appointed Paul as an agent, adding another string to the enterprise’s bow.

“I sell their aeration system and the permastore tanks; they would be the two main products.”

“I see it as a crusade trying to improve calf health. I sell refractometers and colostrum storage bags to try and get farmers to test colostrum and explaining the benefits of why good colostrum is better.”

“The greatest difficulty our business has had is the seasonality of calving in Ireland. We had a few customers buying 20-30 calf hutches. Hearing how their calves are so much healthier and how it is easier rearing their calves this year compared to the previous years is a highlight,” Paul concluded.

Further information

You can find more information at calfpens.i.e. or on its Facebook.

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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