Peach Teats inventor marks 10th anniversary Sunday, Aug 3, 2003
A decade after Hunterville dairy farmer Robert McIntyre started supplying New Zealand’s dairy industry with his revolutionary Peach Teats, the product remains a classic example of Kiwi ingenuity.
Robert somewhat famously came up with his own calf teat design by playing around with traditional valveless teats in his bathtub. At the time, he had a calf-rearing operation raising up to 600 calves and he was frustrated with the performance of the calf teats that were available.
The pioneering concept Robert developed was a screw-in, one-piece teat with a non-return valve, and a leak-resistant crown with milk openings on each side of the nipple. Ten years later, the Peach Teat remains the premier calf teat available in the New Zealand market, if not the world.
Robert McIntyre has always been in dairying and runs two family farms side by side in Hunterville, one with 300 cows, the other 180. Son Richard now does the calf-rearing. Looking back, Robert credits his former calf-rearing operation as being the ideal environment to test prototypes and was a key driver behind Peach Teat’s success.
“Putting a product on the market is like learning to walk – I made a lot of mistakes but perseverance paid off in the end,” says Robert.
“If someone gave me a quarter of a million dollars to put it on the market, I would have run out of money.”
Now marketed by Skellerup Industries, Peach Teats command an estimated 60% of the New Zealand market, something Robert puts down to the simple fact that ‘calves love them’. He says traditional teats are less rewarding because when a calf squeezes the teat most of the milk goes right back into the container, whereas Peach Teat’s unique non-return valve holds the milk in the teat. The valve also simulates the action of a real cow’s teat, moving all the time while the calf is suckling. This means calves get more milk for less effort.
“I’ve heard several farmer describe the teat’s action as being just like a real milk let down,” says Robert.
The results delivered by Peach Teats are reduced mortality, improved weight gain, and healthier and happier calves. Robert points to experiments with feeders where half the teats were Peach Teats and half were competitor products. “When the choice is left to the calves, it’s very clear which ones they like,” he says.
“In my experience, once a farmer’s tried Peach Teats, they’ll stick with them – they always find their calves suffer a lot less stress because they stay on them.”
The original Peach Teats were trialled in a plastic material but Robert wasn’t satisfied with their performance. Eight years ago he joined forces with Skellerup because of their specialist expertise with rubber. Peach Teats are now manufactured from a durable rubber that’s been specially developed by Skellerup to make the teats feel natural and comfortable to the calf, and to minimise mouth ulcers.
The partnership has proved a real boost for Peach Teats. They were recently re-branded ‘Skellerup Peach Teats’, in recognition of the quality of Robert’s design and to mark the product’s 10th birthday. Skellerup Industries has further developed Peach Teat’s unique screw in feature into a complete range of calf rearing products, including compartment feeders and mobile feeders. The individual ‘Skellerup Peach Feeder’ in particular is rapidly gaining a foothold in offshore markets.
“Dairy farmers overseas typically feed calves by hand using single bottles," says Donald Stewart, Chief Executive of Skellerup Industries.
“New Zealand was the first country in the world to develop group feeding, so we’re literally teaching the rest of the world how to feed calves.”
The Skellerup Peach Teat is now also the top selling calf teat in Australia. According to Skellerup, it’s been so successful; it’s in danger of being claimed as an Aussie invention.
“We’ve got the chance of being the best known teat in the world with Skellerup,” Robert says.
“The relationship has instantly given the product credibility. Without it, Peach Teats might not have made it – Skellerup brought in the formula for the rubber and the marketing grunt.”
Donald Stewart says Skellerup Industries places high regard on New Zealanders’ aptitude for design and is constantly on the lookout for new inventions – not only in dairying but also other industrial products.
“The most important part of our business now and in the future is exporting – our focus is on partnering with people, helping them develop their ideas and get the products to market,” says Donald Stewart.
Over the last 30 years, Skellerup has developed a large and established international marketing operation. The company exports more than 32 countries and has distribution operations in most part of the world.