Solar-powered Smart Feeder highlights need for precision livestock management

Researchers with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension are taking a new approach to real-time precision livestock management to optimize herd performance. “So, the Smart Feeder is a creep feeder that’s on steroids,” Tavis Mulliniks tells Brownfield.

He says the feeder is a solar powered machine that precisely monitors and controls feed diets by eliminating intake variations to help boost return on investment. “Using these technologies like this, I can be very precise how much I feed of it and how much they’re consuming,” he says.

He says animals access personalized rations through electronic identification tags.  “When a cow comes up to that feeder, it knows who that cow is and I can program that feeder-say cow 4012 gets two pounds of supplement per day. When the cow walks up to that feeder it registers who that cow is and it’s start dropping it that feed,” he says. 

Inside are four individual bins, allowing a broader choice in supplements that the herd may require nutritionally, in the form of cake, powders and pellets.

And he says cattle can come and go to eat until they hit their limit. “If that cow stays there the whole time, it drops two pounds and it won’t get anything else the rest of the day.  If the cow backs out of the zone, it will quit dropping feed,” Mulliniks says.

Data is captured on when each animal eats, what they eat, and how much they consume. Producers can access this data and adjust feeding times and access if necessary.  

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