by Dr Mike Brumm | thepigsite.com

With high feed ingredient prices affecting pork producers around the world, it seems logical to expect that closer attention would be paid to management of feeders in swine facilities. However, the experience of every consultant and industry advisor whom the author knows suggests that producers, employees and contract growers continue to be lax in the daily adjustment of feeders.

One of the challenges in feeder adjustment is the many variations in feeder design, especially at the point of feed access by the pig. In some hog feeders, pigs turn wheels or activate agitation devices to make feed available for consumption. In others, feed delivery is controlled by means of a slotted device whose width is controlled by the producer. Add to this the differences in feed flow-ability between mash and pellets, between high- and low-fibre diets, between high- and low-fat inclusion levels and you have the recipe for much variation in the expectation for proper feeder setting to minimise wastage while maximising intake and gain.

In the United States, where a majority of all diets are corn- and soybean meal-based, there are several visual guides available for feeder adjustment. The most commonly used source is a set of pictures from Kansas State University swine specialists.

Equipment manufacturers and nutrition suppliers also offer pictorial guides to assist in feeder adjust.

While these pictures can be very helpful, employees and contract growers often do not relate these pictures to their facilities. There are production facilities where these pictures are posted on the office wall as a guide for employees and the employees ignore the pictures.

In the author’s experience, the best method to have cooperation of all parties in achieving consistent feeder adjustment is to use a digital camera. As the owner and employee or as the advisor and owner/employee walk pens in a facility examining pigs and feeder and drinker adjustments, when they agree on the appropriate feeder adjustment setting, take a picture of the feeder. Print the picture and post it in the office or hallway to the facility (pictures 1 and 2). Now the employee has ‘ownership’ in feeder adjustment because the picture of a correctly adjusted feeder is one that he/she participated in.

Pig feeder adjustment will help minimize waste while maximizing intake and gain. Pictures courtesy of Farmweld Inc.

In general, the research data suggests that feeders designed for ad libitum feed access with diets in the mash form should have approximately 40 per cent of the feeder pan covered with feed. If pan coverage is less than 20 per cent, feed intake may be limited, which will result in a decrease in daily gain and often only a minimal improvement in feed conversion efficiency.

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by Robert R Norris | articleclick.com

During the neolithic age, homo sapiens, man, started to see the use of other animals for his own welfare besides hunting. He started utilizing animals for his day to day use. He started training and domesticating animals like cows, goat, buffalos, horses, dogs and so on and so forth for meeting up his daily requirements. Gradually, the increase in human population leads to its dependence on the livestock and also to their breeding.

Digital livestock has been a wealth that the human race has valued from time immemorial. In ancient times people were valued by the amount of digital livestock that they had and not on the scale of money that they acquired. Though with time many things have changed but the value of livestock have continued. Some communities in Africa like the Wasabi tribe still value livestock more than anything else in the world. Hindus worship Cow as a divine incarnation and so on and so forth. In the West, the major usage of the livestock is for dairy and its by-product.

In earlier times, one of the major problems in the upkeep of digital livestock was their hygiene and a lack of proper know how in the way of scientific breeding of them. Various inventions have been made in this front and one significant development has been the invention of the livestock scale.

Digital livestock scale is a commonly used instrument to weigh animals and livestock. It can also be used in industries to measure heavy items.

PS1000 floor scale with digital indicator. To order yours or see our complete gallery of cattle scales, please visit our website: barnworld.com.

A digital livestock scale is widely used in farms, ranches, god owns and meat processing industries all over the world. The scale can be used to weigh things other than digital livestock as well like milk cans, drums, farm produce, pets, parcels, couriers and anything that is required to be weighed an time as a person wants.

Commonly available digital livestock scales are made up of steel and has a rubber mat, so it’s durable, long lasting and easy to clean. Now they are available with digital meters, which give accurate readings. Some have adjustable wheels to provide an even surface during weighing and can be easily moved to a desired location. Varieties of livestock scales are available as per requirements which can measure weights ranging from 500 Lb to 5000 Lb. That is all the reasons that these scales of different companies become very popular among the people of digital live stock field in international market over the world.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

by Claude Villeneuve | ezinearticles.com

The main problem with feeding hay outside to horses is that they like to spread hay around, use it as bedding and spoil it. And as you know for sure is a big waste of hay especially if you paid for quality hay. And to make things worse, all that spoiled wasted and compacted hay has to be cleaned up around the feeder or feeding area. Also, spoilage and waste from all weather conditions has to be considered in designing horse hay feeders.

Of course a solution to this problem, would be to feed only the quantity of hay that your horses are hungry for at the time of feeding, so they eat it all and not waste any. But it also implies you being around when needed, nice weather or not. Since most people want more and more leisure time, there is a need for a feeding method where the hay could stay inside the feeder when not in need, and stay protected from rain, snow and sun. This way one could go from feeding a few times a day to a few times a week.

While an efficient hay feeder would cut down on expenses for one who buys hay, it would sure cut down on work for those who produce their own hay. Most users estimate that a minimum of 30% and up to 40% of hay can be wasted both by the horses and weather conditions.

Other problems such as wounding of horses caused by the feeder and a better social behaviour at the feeder should also be taken into consideration.

Fortunately, such a horse hay feeder exists. It keeps the hay inside the feeder protected from weather. It is completely safe as far as wounding animals and it greatly ameliorates social behaviour around the feeder. Overall this hay feeder will save a considerable amount of time, work, hay and money.

Please go to: http://www.barnworld.com/sa/cart/detail.asp?pg={6E9C0CDD-10E0-49D8-BA54-A7E5FD605F11}.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

ker.com

Ask twenty equine enthusiasts what you should feed your horse, and you are likely to hear twenty different answers. Advice will probably include a number of things that you absolutely must do, as well as an equal number of practices to avoid at all costs. What makes this question so complicated? Possibly the confusion results from the fact that virtually every type of grain has positive and negative qualities. When this fact is combined with the vast body of “old-timer” wisdom, advertising hype, and well-meaning advice encountered by the average horse owner, it is not difficult to see why simple answers seem so elusive. An examination of the pros and cons of various feed ingredients may be the best place to start.

OATS ARE GOOD. This traditional horse feed is palatable and easy to chew. Oats are less susceptible to mold than corn or wheat. Unprocessed oats retain their quality when properly stored. They are considered a “safe” grain because starch from processed or unprocessed oats is readily digested in the small intestine.

OATS ARE BAD. Because they do not offer all the nutrients necessary for growth and maintenance of body tissues, oats cannot be considered a complete feed. When an extra can of oats is mixed with a scoop of a fortified feed, nutrient balance is compromised. Oats contain a high proportion of indigestible fiber (up to 35% by weight). Processed oats have a very short shelf life.

CORN IS GOOD. Corn is also a traditional feed for equines, and most horses like the taste. Corn is high in starch (70%).

CORN IS BAD. Corn is low in protein, with a lysine level of only about 0.25%. Fed at high levels, corn may not be completely digested in the small intestine, and undigested starch passing to the large intestine can trigger colic or laminitis. Corn that is harvested or stored at high moisture levels may harbor mold, especially on broken or damaged kernels.

BARLEY IS GOOD. Barley provides high energy, moderate protein, and low fiber. In regions where barley is grown it is sometimes substituted for corn in horse rations. Crude protein from barley is digested more easily than corn protein. Net energy available from barley is higher than oats.

BARLEY IS BAD. Barley starch has somewhat low digestibility in the small intestine. Rolling improves this factor, and feeding micronized barley results in the least undigested starch reaching the large intestine. This grain is somewhat low in lysine and methionine. Improper storage can lower the quality of barley due to growth of to fungus or mold.

MOLASSES IS GOOD. Molasses holds top-dressed supplements and fine particles, and its excellent palatability encourages picky eaters.

MOLASSES IS BAD. Its high sugar content may trigger a high glycemic response followed by a slump in energy.

SWEET FEED IS GOOD. Sweet feed is palatable to most horses. The molasses in sweet feed discourages “sorting” of ingredients and top-dressed supplements. It may be somewhat easier to detect moldy or rancid sweet feed because of changes in appearance, smell, and texture, whereas these changes are not as evident in pelleted feeds.

SWEET FEED IS BAD. Its sticky texture can cause bridging or clumping in feed mill containers or storage bins. Mold can grow in sweet feed that sticks to the side of the container, contaminating fresh feed. Bulk feed bins and storage units should be emptied and cleaned regularly, especially in hot weather.

7 ft x 2 row basic bulk feeder bin with 16" collar for poly hopper and with ground control cap opener. To see our complete line of bulk feed bins visit our Website, barnworld.com.

PELLETS ARE GOOD. Because every pellet contains all ingredients in the mix, pelleting is a way to guarantee that the horse cannot pick through the feed and eat only the most appetizing morsels. Heat during processing slightly increases digestibility of ingredients. Pelleted feeds are usually not subject to clumping in production lines or storage units. Containers and feed tubs stay cleaner and are less attractive to flies and rodents. While the comment “You can’t ever tell what’s in pellets” is still heard on occasion, the tag provides an ingredient list and a guaranteed analysis, giving an assurance that quality ingredients have been used to make the feed.

PELLETS ARE BAD. Top-dressed supplements and additives tend to sift through pellets and be left in the bottom of the feed tub. Fine particles may aggravate allergies in susceptible horses, and an extremely high level of fines means less useable feed per bag or batch. Getting the mix too hot or keeping it at a high temperature too long during processing can compromise vitamin content and protein digestibility.

FAT IS GOOD. Measured by volume, fat contributes more energy than grains. There is less chance of founder or colic than with feeds providing energy from starch. Fat delivers “cool” energy and is a good fuel for endurance exercise.

FAT IS BAD. It is not a complete feed and should make up no more than about 20% of the horse’s diet. In large quantities, fat can cause diarrhea. Some types of animal fat decrease feed palatability.

It’s clear that there are good and bad features of almost anything that can be fed to a horse, but owners don’t need to worry about sorting through all the confusion. Equine nutritionists have taken most of the guesswork out of feeding and have provided carefully formulated products to complement forage in almost any nutrition program. A simple answer to the feeding dilemma does exist:

  • Base a feeding program on high-quality forage (grass or hay).
  • Provide energy and necessary nutrients by using a fortified grain product chosen on the basis of the horse’s age, use, size, and body type. KER has formulated feeds to meet the needs of horses in all riding disciplines and stages of life.
  • Adjust the feeding program as dictated by changes in body weight, performance demands, or reproductive status.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

omafra.gov.on.ca

Hay is a good and, usually, an inexpensive source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for the horse. The mature horse will consume at least 2% of its body weight in dry matter daily. In nature, almost all of the mature horse’s nutrient requirements can be met by roughage in the form of hay. Regardless of the package type, e.g., small squares, round bales, etc., the most important considerations when buying hay are:

  • The quality of the hay, e.g., dust free (from molds), a crude protein content of 12-14% on a dry matter basis, a calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) of approximately 2:1 for growing horses (mature horses Ca:P ratio < 5:1).
  • Freedom from noxious weeds (e.g., bracken fern, horsetail) and plants that horses won’t eat (e.g., Bird’s-foot trefoil).
  • The price per pound or kilogram.
  • The package size. Can you physically handle small square bales ranging in weight from 35-60 lbs. or round bales and round bale silage ranging from 500 to 1600 lbs.?
  • Do you have the equipment that can handle large bales in winter with the additional problems created by snow?

When feeding a group of horses, hay costs become considerable and alternative package sizes, such as large round bales, may be especially useful and cost effective when combined with the appropriate feeders. For example, when feeding a group of six adult horses, the use of 4′ x 5′ soft-core round bales can result in savings over the use of traditional square bales. The cost savings come from: reduced labour, both during the initial haying season and during the feeding period; reduced storage costs (large bale storage is often cheaper than storage for small bales); and reduced costs of the actual dry matter on a cents-per-pound basis.

Let us see how tangible these savings really are by calculating the roughage costs for feeding a group of six horses:

  • An 1100-lb. horse consuming 2% of its body weight will consume 22 lbs. of dry matter or roughly 24 lbs. of hay on an as-fed basis (1100-lb. horse x 2% body weight = 22 lbs. of hay/horse/day on a dry matter basis. Hay is roughly 90% dry matter. Therefore, another 10% should be added, resulting in approximately 24.4 lbs. of hay being consumed per horse per day on an as-fed weight basis).
  • Six horses will consume approximately 6 x 24.4 or 146.4 lbs. of hay per day.
  • When hay is priced at $0.05/lb. (on an as-fed basis), a 4′ x 5′ mixed hay round bale providing 565 lbs. of hay (see Table 1) costs approximately $28. This bale should last approximately 4 days, baring any losses and would cost $7.00 per day to feed six horses.
  • To feed the same group of six horses, 3 square bales per day (weighing 48 lbs. per bale) would be required. At a cost of $2.50 per bale, the cost would be $7.50 per day.

Use local costs to calculate this comparison for your area. In many areas, and depending on the harvest year, the cost of hay in round bales on a cents/lb. basis is often significantly less than that sold in small square bales. At these times, feeding round bales can be more cost effective. However, when the cost of hay on a per pound basis is the same regardless of package type and size (round versus small), the economic advantage of using round bales will be based primarily on labor saving.

These savings can easily be diminished if losses from controllable factors, such as storage and the use of feeders, are not implemented. In fact, round-bale feeding can be more expensive than the feeding of small square bales. Storage of large round bales outside, exposed to the elements, results in dry-matter losses of 15-20% more than hay stored inside. Hay loss is attributed to outer-layer losses from weathering and to pulling of ground moisture into the base of the bale by wick action. To understand this loss all one has to do is to visualize spoilage of the mere outer 3″ of a 4′-diameter bale. This will result in a 25% loss of suitable feed. In addition, improperly stored hay is often dusty and can cause health concerns in horses.

To prevent spoilage losses, round bales can be stored inside a barn or outside covered with black plastic or bale tarps; in either case, they must be raised off the ground. This will prevent both spoilage and loss of nutrients. The absorption of ground moisture can easily double the amount of outer-layer losses. The use of rails, poles or pallets will minimize spoilage from ground moisture.

Table 1: How Much Hay is in a Round Bale? (prepared by Daniel Tasse, OMAF) Estimates of the weights based on a soft-core baler (add 20% for a hard core)

Feeding hay on the ground can account for a further 25% loss, from leaf loss as well as spoilage due to contamination (i.e. urine and manure) and trampling by horses. Therefore, it is advised to use hay feeders such as a “V” feeder with a tray to catch the leaves (Figure 1) or a round-bale feeder (Figure 2).

The proper storage and use of round bales can account for a 50% saving, which translates into half the number of bales needed. Table 2 gives a cost comparison for various storage and feeding methods.

Table 2: A Cost Comparison of Various Feeding Methods.

The theoretical calculations are based on:

  • A 220-day winter feeding period for 6 horses requiring 32,208 lbs. of hay with no dry matter losses.
  • The required nutrients could be supplied, if there were no feeding or storage losses, either as 57 – 4′ x 5′, 565-lb. round bales (cost of $28 each) or as 671 48-lb. square bales (cost of $2.50 each).
  • Losses, as indicated above, will require an increase in hay and added costs.
  • *The calculations indicate that 57 bales are required but 50% of the dry matter would be lost resulting in 28.5 additional bales being required but 50% of the 28.5 would also be lost for a total requirement of 99.75.

Take Home Message

  • Purchase hay on a cents-per-pound basis.
  • Round bale feeders are labor saving but can be dusty and costly if storage and feeding damage/losses are not minimized.
  • The feeding of horses starts with buying good hay, storing it properly and feeding to minimize leaf losses.
  • The cost of feeders and suitable storage protection can easily be recouped over a couple of winters, even when hay prices are relatively low.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

omafra.gov.on.ca

How Fruit Size Effects Amount Needed To Fill the Bin

Perhaps the most common thought in the minds of picking crews after they have gone through a well-managed block of apples could be “larger apples fill bins much quicker than average size fruit.”

This idea is easily substantiated. Table 1 gives you some idea of relative fruit size and numbers needed to fill the bin. It takes 2000 apples of 3 1/8 inch diameter (100 count size) to fill a bin.

To fill the same bin with 2 ¾-inch diameter (138-count size) fruit, you have to reach for and handle 2760 apples per bin. Although a 2 ¾-inch apple isn’t a bad size, time and costs increase when smaller fruit is handled.

Table 1. Number of Apples to Fill Bins (Based on 20 bu/bin and 42 lb/bu)

Worksheet Example:

1000 trees/acre x 30 apples/tree = 30, 000 apples/acre = 30, 000 apples
There are 2000 apples per bin of 100 count size.

number of apples ÷ number per bin = 30,000 ÷ 2,000 = 15 bins

Tree Density Factor Chart

Fruit Size Factor Chart

Example: Grower has a density of 600 trees/acre and has 40 apples of avg. 125-count size/tree.

The grower needs:
Bins needed = 40(apples/tree) x 0.3(tree density factor) x 0.8(fruit size factor) = 9.6 or 10 bins

Three Factors That Make Up Crop Volume

Three factors make up crop volume: tree numbers, fruit numbers, and fruit size. If fruit size and crop load is fairly uniform in a higher-density planting, you can easily estimate yield. For example, if you have a tree density of 1000 trees/acre, and each tree carries 30 apples of 100-count size; you would need about 15 bins to accommodate the yield from one acre.

At 1000 trees/acre, the bin requirement is equal to half the number of apples per tree if the fruit is 100 count size.

At 500 trees/acre, the number of bins you would need equals one quarter the number of apples per tree. For sizes less than 100 count size (1x), you would multiply by a fruit factor which accounts for a 10% volume reduction for every 1/8-inch loss of size.

The Importance of Thinning for a Standard Distribution

Fruit size in a well-thinned crop generally follows a standard distribution. Most of the crop will be of the desired size classes while a smaller percentage of fruit will be much larger or much smaller than the bulk of the fruit making up the crop.

Bins/acre = apples/tree x tree density factor x fruit size factor

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

raisingpigs.blogspot.com

Part of raising pigs the right way is to feed them properly. Pigs eat a lot and quickly. Pigs need a high energy diet that is low in fiber and contains some protein. They eat a lot of food though- the phrase hungry as a pig comes from the fact that a pig will eat just about anything. However, some foods are better than others and if you want to raise a fat and healthy pig, it will be important to give them the right balance of food.

Farm grains are the most common and best source of food to feed pigs. Corn is typically used to feed pigs because it is high in digestible carbohydrates, low in fiber, and tasty! However, corn needs to be supplemented with other vitamins in food in order to keep pigs healthy.

You need to include sources of protein and antibacterial compounds to their feed to slow the growth of harmful bacteria that occurs naturally. In small does, these compounds increase the growth rate of pigs and help lower feeding costs. If you use an antibacterial compound, you must pay attention to the withdrawal rate of the compound. This is the period of time that medicated feeds must be removed from a hog’s diet before you can slaughter them.

Pigs weighing 40 to 125 pounds are referred to as growing pigs. From 125 pounds to market weight (about 230 pounds) pigs are called finishing pigs. As a pig grows, the total amount of dietary protein it needs each day also increases; pigs should be switched from the grower (nutrient dense/more protein) to the finisher (less dense) diet when they weigh about 125 pounds.

Pigs should be self-fed via a trough and this allows them to grow as quickly as possible. Pigs will continue to eat and eat until they are full and its important to let them eat as much as they want. Feeding them yourself might lead to undernourishment as you might think “ohh they have had enough.” But they will know when that have had enough. Let your pigs self eat by creating a deep and big trough for them to eat from. You can also use gravity feed pig feeders and ration style hog feeders that minimize wasted feed.

6 Bushel Oscillating Grower Feeder. To see our complete line of hog feeders, visit us at barnworld.com.

Water is the most important part of a pig’s diet. One-half to two-thirds of a pig’s body is water weight. Pigs must be given all the water they can drink. Water is as important to pigs as it is to people.

Using this information, you’ll be able to feed your pigs the right food and create healthy pigs that will ensure they grow large and fat so when it comes time to slaughter them, their meat will be the best it could have been. Just a like a proper diet is important to plants and people, so it is important to pigs. Make sure to feed them the right food.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about hog feeders, grain weight conversion, and hay feeders, please visit our Barn World informational site.

For more information about livestock scales, bulk feed bins, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit our Barn World informational site.

ehow.com

Owning a horse is a time-consuming yet rewarding experience. Horses are sensitive and intelligent creatures that require a lot of attention and maintenance from regular vet visits to routine grooming. However, for people who truly enjoy owning a horse, the maintenance becomes second nature and grooming becomes another act of bonding between horse and owner. By following the proper steps involved in caring for a horse, you ensure that your horse stays happy and healthy.

Instructions

1. Get a veterinarian. Contact a veterinarian in your area that specializes in horses. Set up your vet appointment before you get your horse. Horses need regular shots for rhino flu every 8 weeks, rabies and Potomac fever shots twice a year and past wormer every 4 to 6 weeks. Getting a veterinarian involved before getting your horse ensures that your horse receives the proper care from the beginning.

2. Set up your stable. Provide the horse with a stable that features stalls that are at least 10-by-10 feet. Get rid of any exposed electrical wires. Place straw bedding in the horse’s stall. Provide ample ventilation in the stable, as well as feed and water buckets. Clean the horse stalls and stable every day. Provide fresh straw daily.

3. Provide a large pasture. Horses need at least one and a half acres of land for roaming and grazing. Fix any fence holes or broken gates before allowing your horse in the pasture.

4. Feed and keep your horse hydrated. Place feed and water buckets in the pasture and in the stable. Provide plenty of oats, grains and commercial feed on top of the pasture grass the horse grazes on. Feed the horse according to its needs. Observe the horse’s feeding habits during the first couple weeks after bringing it home. Adjust the feed according to how much your horse consumes. Provide clean, fresh water to the horse several times a day. Clean out the hay feeder, feeding buckets or troughs at least once a week and the water buckets every day.

5. Groom the horse. Regularly groom the horse after each ride. Brush the horse. Keep the tail and mane untangled. Use the proper brushes when brushing the horse. Wash the horse with horse shampoo or soap at least once a week.

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For more information about cattle guards, cattle scales, and saddle pads, please visit our Barn World informational site.

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articlesbase.com

When it comes to caring for and dealing with cattle there are numerous contrasting things that you need to do. It is essential that you know how to address the animals so that you can expect the way in which they will react and discover to expect their moves before they do them. You likewise should recognize how to care for them, feed them, and also weigh them.

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It is common for farmers to weigh each cow that they care for. This will make it simpler to know if they are healthy and how they can sell them or for other business intentions. Because of this the farmer has to be able to have the correct type of cattle scale on hand at all times.

There are several contrasting kinds of these scales that they are able to utilize and each work differently. The most common are linked to a computer that will set next to the cattle chute. As they walk through you can have them stand on the scale and it will load the numbers on the computer.

This is utilized to help the farmer keep track of how much they have developed in a particular folder and to bring it up when they want it. However, not all scales are able to do this and not everybody has the luxury of keeping a computer so near to them when they need it.

You have to research the contrasting producers in order to discover the best cattle scale to use for the type of cattle that you have. Also acquire something that is harmonious with a program or other kind of machine that will make it easy for you to keep track of the several cows that you own.

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To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

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by Erica Larson | thehorse.com

“Why does he do that?” “What is she so scared of … there’s nothing there!” Most—if not all—horse owners have been there and asked those questions. Even though we don’t always understand equine behavior, there’s got to be a reason behind it, right? Absolutely. Horses’ behaviors date back to equine evolution, and horse owners greatly benefit from an understanding what goes on in a horse’s brain, according to one veterinarian. At the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 19-23 in Las Vegas, Nev., Robert Miller, DVM, a former equine practitioner from Thousand Oaks, Calif., relayed the top 10 things horse owners, caretakers, and riders should understand about how the equine mind functions.

“There are 10 genetically predetermined behavioral qualities unique to the horse that have been established by natural selection over the 50 million-year period during which the horse evolved,” Miller began. “Failure to understand these qualities makes it impossible to have optimum communication with horses.”

1. Flight—”We tend to attribute the flightiness of a horse as stupidity,” Miller said, but when horses spook and run from things, it’s simply their innate instincts kicking in. He explained that unlike the majority of prey animals that depend on horns, tusks, or antlers for defense, the only mechanism horses are armed with—their “life-saving” behavior—is the ability to run. The following nine qualities, Miller said, stem from the horse’s flight response.

2. Perception—”The horse is the most perceptive of all domestic animals,” Miller said, adding that this quality allowed for the quick detection and escape from predators in the wild. He gave examples using the five senses:

  • Smell—Miller said horses have an “excellent” sense of smell.
  • Hearing—”The horse’s range of hearing is far beyond that of a human ear,” he said. Additionally, he noted, the ears swivel, giving the horse the ability to pinpoint where sounds originate. This was critical for survival in the wild.
  • Touch—”A horse’s sense of touch is extremely delicate,” Miller said, which is why ill-placed saddle pads or a single fly can cause extreme irritation. “The sense we have in our fingertips is what the horse has all over his body.”
  • Taste—Ever tried to sneak Bute or a new supplement into a horse’s feed, only to have him turn up his nose? Horses have a very tactful sense of taste. When grazing in the wild, it’s important for horses to differentiate between good grass and moldy forage.
  • Sight—The sense that varies most from ours is the horse’s eyesight. While horses’ depth perception isn’t particularly strong, other factors enable them to “see things we’re not even aware of,” Miller said. The horse’s laterally placed eyes allow for nearly 360⁰ vision, a crucial survival mechanism for the wild equid. Additionally, Miller noted the horse has superb night vision and sees in muted, pastel colors during the day. The equine focusing system is also different from humans, he said. When a human eye transitions from focusing on close-up objects to far away objects, it takes one and a half to two seconds to adjust (Miller encouraged attendees to try it—look at something close up and then look at something far away, and try to focus on how long it takes the eyes to focus). Horses, on the other hand, make the transition seamlessly. This is because different parts of the eye have different focusing capabilities. Horses use the top portion of their eyes to see up close, which is why they often lower their heads when investigating something. The lower portion of the eye sees far away, which is why the animal will raise his head when looking at something in the distance; when the horse holds his head up high, he’s considered to be in the flight position.

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3. Reaction time—Miller said horses might have the fastest reaction time of any domestic animal, which likely results from evolving with flight as their main defense mechanism. To illustrate the concept, Miller showed video clips of Portuguese bull fighting and cutting horses working cattle, in which attendees could clearly visualize that although the bovines made the first move, the horse always countered and arrived at the destination first. While a fast reaction time is quite useful for escaping predators, it can also be dangerous for humans working around horses. “It’s important that we, who make our living with horses, expect their reaction time,” Miller stressed. “If (a horse) really wants to strike or kick you, you can’t get out of the way fast enough.”

4. Desensitization—Although it’s equine nature to be flighty and sometimes timid, Miller said that horses appear to be desensitized faster than any other domestic animal. “If an animal depends on flight to stay alive, and if they couldn’t rapidly desensitize to things that aren’t really frightening or dangerous, they’d never stop running,” he explained. As long as the horse learns the frightening stimulus doesn’t actually hurt them, the majority will become desensitized, he said.

5. Learning—Miller believes “the horse is the fastest learner of all domestic animals—including children. If you stay alive by running away, you better learn fast.”

6. Memory—The horse’s memory is infallible, Miller said. One of the best memories in the animal kingdom, he noted, horses are second only to the elephant in this department.

7. Dominance—Equine dominance is not based on brute strength, Miller explained, which is why humans can become dominant figures in a horse’s mind. He related an example of a horse herd in which an older mare is typically the boss. While these mares generally aren’t in poor physical condition, they’re certainly not the strongest herd member physically.

8. Movement control—What horses do look for in a dominant figure is movement control. Matriarch mares, for instance, assert their dominance by either forcing or inhibiting movement, Miller said, which allows a human to step in as a dominant figure. Miller suggested a quick way for a veterinarian to assert dominance over a horse for safer examinations and treatments: Before treatment, walk the horse in a few small circles. This forces movement and asserts dominance.

9. Body language—Unlike humans, who can express their feelings through words, horses rely on body language, Miller said. “If we are to be competent horse handlers we must be able to understand and mimic the body language of the horse,” he explained.

10. Precocial birth—Horses are born in a precocial state, meaning that shortly after birth they possess the ability to move, eat, flee, and follow, and all of their senses and neurologic functions are mature, Miller said. What does this mean for a human? Aside from providing enjoyment in watching a young foal gallop and buck excitedly around a pasture, it tells us that the horse’s critical learning period takes place shortly after parturition. Thus, Miller recommends socializing and imprinting foals in the very early stages of life.

Of course, every horse is different and should be treated as an individual. That said, having a basic understanding of why a horse functions the way he does provides equestrians with the knowledge needed to forge a strong relationship with the animal and also stay safe when working around him.

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