Researchers test technology to help producers monitor livestock feed


Beef production is a half billion dollar-a-year industry for Tennessee and University of Tennessee agriculture researchers work to improve livestock production statewide.

Researchers now have new technology to help gauge what healthy cattle eat and how farmers can limit their feed costs, which can be expensive.

The new system sends information from the barn straight to a researcher’s desk.

A program called Growsafe at the UT Plateau AgResearch Center helps monitor cattle.

“We’ve traditionally been researching the area of reproduction and this is going to give us a huge push in the area of animal nutrition,” said Walt Hitch.

When cattle poke their head through the chute, the monitoring device starts recording.

“So when we put feed in, it knows how much we put it in and when we put it in. And then we know which animal ate and how much it ate. So it really has a lot of potential as far as the kinds of research. We can use different rations. We can look at feed efficiency,” said Hitch.

There are only about 100 of those units in the world and about 60 in the United States.

The key advantage is the immediate and precise information for researchers.

They say the system lets them monitor a large heard at once.

Travis Mulliniks, the beef specialist for the Plateau AgResearch Center, can monitor the cattle from his desktop computer.

“The amount of feed we put in here, it actually records, sends it to a data acquisition panel that sends a signal up to my office that can record it. So, once a cow comes in with a EID in her ear, she sticks her head in to take a bite. I know exactly which cow is in there taking a bite from my office,” said Mulliniks.

He says the data gathered with GrowSafe will help producers with feed costs and management decisions.

To stay in business, farmers need cattle to eat well. The system gives them the information needed to raise a healthy heard.

This report is our land-grant partner, the University of Tennessee.