Home-made solar feeder dishes out tailored ration – Farmers Weekly


A livestock farmer in East Sussex has constructed a solar-powered feeder to assist his youngstock calves get their justifiable share of cake when grazing poorer-high quality everlasting pasture.

Matt Ford beforehand relied on a snacker trailer to drop the grub in small piles on the ground. However, this easy technique hadn’t gone unnoticed by the native seagull inhabitants which, because the fields lie simply three miles from the ocean, prompted havoc by scavenging the dropped feed.

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Mr Ford wished to enhance calf progress charges throughout the board by ensuring a number of the smaller animals received their share – one thing that had proved tough with no method of regulating consumption throughout the 200-strong herd.

This meant the larger, greedier ones had a bent to dominate at feeding time, leaving the smallest to tidy up the scraps.

Targeted ration

He noticed an honest feeding unit made in New Zealand, however it wasn’t obtainable within the UK, so he set about constructing his personal.

His design is predicated on an ATL Out of Parlour feeder, which he mounted to a not too long ago acquired flatbed trailer, permitting it to be towed to recent pasture every day.

There are 4 feeding slots either side and it employs a “little-and-often” feeding precept to permit each calf time to dine with out worry of competitors. Side-mounted pallets stop animals from turning and others making an attempt to barge their method in.

The methods depends on the cows’ EID tags to launch the proper-sized portion into the feeder for every animal. This technique permits Mr Ford to feed the smallest 20% of the herd a wholesome 4kg ration, whereas the remainder should accept the same old 2kg. There is even the choice to trim the biggest animals down to only 1kg.

Feed could be accessed at any time over 24 hours and the 4kg ration is split up into two 2kg parts. Unfortunately, the info connection isn’t sturdy sufficient to vary ration sizes from residence, however dependable GPS areas present the place the feeder is positioned and a historical past of the place it has been.


Originally, a small solar panel was put in to high up the battery, however it couldn’t maintain the system operating on cloudy days. The energy is used to run slightly motor on every station and the antenna for recognising the ear tags, however the reserves and lack of charging time on darkish days meant the battery drained often.

A much bigger panel and second battery have been added to maintain the system alive 24 hours a day, and Mr Ford is ready to verify that it’s nonetheless working when he strikes the trailer to recent grass each morning.

The low-loader trailer price about £2,000 and the feeder system was one other £7,000. With the panels and different ancillary parts purchased from the web, the whole construct got here to only over £10,000.

The hope is that the trailer setup will final for a number of years to make the funding worthwhile by bettering the uniformity of herd progress weights.