Mobile Trailers to Remotely Control and Record Supplement Intakes of Individual Animals

D.J. Cottle a, R. Cranston b and R. Wyld b

a  'Murrulla', Armidale, NSW, 2350

b Sapien Technology, 22 Harker Street, Burwood, Vic, 3125

An automated, mobile trailer bin feeding system is being developed to enable the daily feeding of controlled amounts of supplements to individual grazing animals. If a supplement contains a natural marker, such as 13C, this enables the daily pasture intake of individual herbivores to be estimated from analyses of the 13C in the faeces (Cottle 2016). Use of the trailers enables this to be done without the need for humans to dose animals with markers, e.g. using controlled-release delivery devices. The trailers incorporate: 1) electronic ear tag readers at 6 feeding stations (3 each side), 2) mechanisms to provide the supplement in such a way that maximum intake for each animal every 6 hours (or customised setting) is controlled, 3) purpose built electronics, 4) solar panels and 5) remote data input/output capacity (pictures below).


Up to 4 trailers can reside in the one paddock and communicate with each other, which enables up to 24 feeding stations to simultaneously feed animals in a paddock. A cluster of 4 trailers could potentially feed 400 plus head in a paddock.  The parameters controlling feed access can be adjusted remotely over the web. The trailer data, e.g. amount of supplement each animal has eaten (g/day), is available through a purpose built website (picture below). For example, heifers grazing at 'Knewleave' and 'Te Mania' in Victoria (in the pictures above) have had their maize intake monitored hourly in real time in an Armidale, NSW office via 3G wireless and internet. A summary of the results from these trials will be given in various publications in 2016-2017 (see below).

As feed (pasture) is the largest single cost item in most livestock enterprises, high feed use efficiency is an important breeding and nutritional objective. Residual feed intakes measured on ad lib grain-based diets in feedlots are expensive to obtain and poorly related to more restricted pasture intakes (Herd et al. 2011). As the trailers can be used to control the individual daily intakes of any type of supplement they have the capacity to be multi-purpose and therefore more cost effective. Some potential uses for the trailers include:

Queries about the trailers can be directed to:

David Cottle or Robert Wyld

or Sapien Technology


Cottle, D.J. (2016) Estimation of the pasture intake of individual yearlings by controlled supplementation with natural 13C or alkanes and alcohols. Livestock Science, 184: 13-20.

Cottle, D.J. (2017) Optimising natural 13C marker based pasture intake estimates for cattle using a genetic algorithm approach. Livestock Science, in press.

Cottle, D.J. and Eckard, R. (2014) Modelling the reduction in enteric methane from voluntary intake versus controlled individual animal intake of lipid or nitrate supplements. Animal Production Science  54: 2121-2131.

Cottle, D.J, Eckard, R., Bray, S. and Sullivan, M. (2016) An evaluation of carbon offset options for beef production systems on coastal spear grass in central Queensland. Animal Production Science 55: 385-382.

Cottle, D.J. and van der Werf, J.H.J. (2017) Optimising the proportion of selection candidates measured for feed intake for a beef cattle breeding objective that includes methane emissions. Journal of Animal Science, accepted.

Cottle, D.J. and Wyld, R. (2016) Novel livestock supplementation: reducing shy feeders. Proc. Aust. Soc. Anim. Prod., 31:  accepted.

Herd R.M., Arthur P.F. and Archer J.A. (2011) Proc. Assoc. Advmt. Anim. Breed. Genet. 19: 47.

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