5 Ways to Improve Feedlot Efficiency Through Automation

improve feedlot efficiency

There are many factors affecting feedlot efficiency that operators cannot control. This makes the factors that operators can control even more important. Automation technology is one way that feedlot operators are finding ways to improve efficiency. With the right strategy and the right equipment, you can save time, reduce expenses and reduce losses.

5 Ways to Improve Feedlot Efficiency Through Automation

1. Saving Time with Automatic Mixing  

Manual processes take time, especially when they have to be repeated daily or multiple times a day. Automating these processes as much as possible can save hours, and free workers to take on more important tasks.  

When deciding which processes to automate and where the most significant benefits exist, consider the processes on either side of the task. Are workers idle while a task is being completed? If so, automating this task can improve efficiency. If the other processes require similar amounts of time, automating this process probably won’t significantly improve the overall system.

Common opportunities for feedlot automation are during feed mixing, formulating, distribution, and the cattle induction process. Consider adding a micro machine for formulating and mixing additives into feed, or using cloud-connected devices to increase efficiency and safety in induction stage.

Learn more about micro machines for cattle feed mixing »  

2. Improving Accuracy With Programmatic Solutions

Additives, including vitamins, minerals, ionophores, and antibiotics, can quickly add to expenses, especially if they’re inefficiently measured or improperly mixed. Getting the precise amount of these micro ingredients and reducing waste as much as possible can help to significantly reduce expenses in the long run.

The right micro machine can solve this problem with consistent mixing and accurate, pre-programmed weighing. Scales weigh ingredients quickly and exactly to get the right amount, and each ingredient is distributed automatically according to a pre-programmed recipe.

3. Reducing Costs with Buyer Flexibility

When investing in feedlot automation equipment, it’s tempting to reduce upfront costs using ingredient  supplier contracts. However, exclusive contracts for expensive micro ingredients can quickly eat into feedlot efficiency gains. When considering equipment contracts for dairy and cattle micro ingredient systems, compare the supplier’s ingredient prices as well, and weigh it against the cost of a machine. Are prices significantly different? How much would you save with the option to shop around for vitamins, minerals and other additives?

Before entering a contract with an micro ingredient supplier, consider all your options, as well as your goals for the machine. Get a clear picture of the machine’s long-run benefits, and the supplier’s performance. If the extra cost of additives outweighs the value of the machine and process improvements, consider a cattle feed micro machine without a contract.

4. Reducing Errors With Lot Tracking

More information allows you to make better decisions, and more visibility allows you to solve problems. Lot tracking technology makes it easy to see the consistency, origin and destination of all feed in the lot. When making adjustments to feed or assessing problems like infection or low feed intake, complete visibility over the feed schedule allows you to make informed decisions. Cattle feed micro machines with lot tracking capabilities allow you to access this information in one place, and more easily make adjustments. This information also makes it easier to compare results year over year, and track expenses, yield, and growth more accurately.

5. Reducing Downtime and Maintenance

When considering system automation to increase feedlot efficiency, downtime and maintenance are also important factors. All systems will require a degree of regular maintenance and cleaning to stay operational. This process should not be overly complex, or it may eat into the speed and efficiency gained from introducing the machine in the first place.

To assess the maintenance schedule of automation systems before installing them, consider what the machine is made of, how it is constructed, and whether or not it uses proprietary parts. If certain parts of the machine can only be accessed by a repair technician, or some components can only be replaced by the supplier, downtime may be problematic, especially during weekends or holidays. A modular construction makes it easy to assess and repair problems, and off-the-shelf components allow you to take maintenance and repairs into your own hands.  

Investing in automation requires consideration, but the right machines can significantly improve feedlot efficiency. Automating dangerous processes or processes introducing error can also help to eliminate other problems. Consider your options carefully and make an automation strategy before diving in, choosing the slowest, more inaccurate, or most dangerous tasks to automate first.