A fierce desire to grow their equity, and the unpredictability of the Bega seasons, has seen Tom and Gemma Otton take up a share farming role with Peter and Jeanette Clark at Kongwak.
“I like to think of the coats as little ICU unit for the animals – that’s how we got the name,” says the maker of ICU Rugs, Marg Egan.
Based in Tynon in West Gippsland, Marg started making the calf rugs after first designing them for lambs, to prevent hypothermia and support recovery in cases of low birth weight, pneumonia and scours.
Growing up in dairy, she knows the importance of keeping calves warm.
Marg says it took her about four or five years to find the best fabric and get the design right to make sure the heat would be maintained.
The outer shell of the fabric is three-layer laminated, waterproof, windproof and breathable.
The inner layer is a double sided fabric that keeps moisture away from the animal’s skin whilst circulating the animal's body temperature.
“It works in extremely cold conditions and even if the animal is not active, it will keep the body heat circulating,” Marg says.
“The inner fabric is also odour controlled, enabling you to place it on multiple animals without the birthmother being confused over the scent of her offspring.”
Heat pads, inserted into a specially designed pocket give a continuous heat for up to 10-12 hours.
“These heat pads are great because not only are they eco-friendly, they are odourless, light, self-adhesive and gradually warm up once put to use.”
Marg says the business has gone from strength to strength since it started about 18 months ago, using Facebook, a website and word of mouth.
Despite the growing demand, she still makes every rug herself.
“Just in the front room of my house, all on my own.”
She’s had good uptake across the globe in Europe, Canada, Argentina and the testimonials have been very positive.
“I’m very practical, and I’m not saying it’s the be all and end all, but the people I’ve seen have had some great results.”