Feedlot innovation competition: Simple ideas, big  paybacks

Beef Central, 14/09/2023

AN online competition invites Australian feedlots and their employees to showcase clever, practical and low-cost innovations that have genuinely made a difference to the functionality of their operation.

The competition is currently taking votes on which of nine ideas straight from the feedyard is the best.

Australian Lot Feeders’ Association’s Innovation Competition emphasises innovations related to feed manufacturing, feed delivery, cattle processing or cattle handling, yard maintenance or occupational health and safety.

Materials for the creation of the innovation should not exceed $5000, and the innovation should help to save labour or deliver improved accuracy, efficiency and/or safety in the day-to-day operation of the feedlot.

Nine finalists have been selected for this year’s competition, with the winning innovation to be selected by popular vote through an online voting system currently underway (and which closes on September 22).

The winning innovation will be announced during ALFA’s SmartBeef conference in Tamworth on October 11-12.

Readers can vote on their favourite innovation at the ALFA website link here: https://www.feedlots.com.au/innovation-smartbeef

A brief summary of the nine finalists currently in the running:

Five Star Beef Feedlot’s ‘Safer Post Mortem tool’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Current practice to extract brain samples from cattle to help diagnose health issues is for an instrument like an axe to be used. We have found this tool to be difficult to use in this task and can pose a significant personal safety risk to the user.

How does the innovation/idea work? Our innovative idea involves using a hole saw on a battery-powered drill. We have found this to be a much safer option when conducting a postmortem, as it greatly removes the risk of personal injury. We have had great success in sharing the innovation with others, including Dr. Kev Sullivan who in fact now uses an adaptation of our method himself, along with other feedlots he works with implementing the safer practice on site.

Cost of Innovation: approx. $400


Smithfield Feedlot’s ‘MaxiMukMoover’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Maintaining cleanliness along the fence lines in our pens to prevent fly breeding requires significant resources, including employee time, diesel fuel, and the use of a machine. The costs associated with these resources have been steadily increasing. Additionally, weather events can disrupt our schedule, resulting in a sudden rush to clean multiple pens within the limited time frame of the fly’s life cycle.

Given these challenges, it becomes evident that increasing the amount of manure collected per drag can lead to substantial cost savings. By doing so, we can dramatically decrease the time taken to complete pen cleaning tasks, thereby reducing labour, diesel consumption, and the need for machine availability. Moreover, this improvement will have a positive impact on animal welfare, which is of utmost importance to us.

How does the innovation/idea work? The “MaxiMukMoover” attachment transforms our standard spreader bar, enabling it to collect up to double the amount of manure per drag and ensuring it is efficiently relocated far away from the fence line. This is achieved through a simple yet effective design. The low profile of the “MaxiMukMoover” allows for easy manoeuvring under the bottom cable, and even when fully engaged, the flexible rubber flap of the conveyor belt effortlessly bends to accommodate passing under low cables.

It’s value really comes into play when there is large amounts of manure to be moved. This feature ensures smooth and uninterrupted operation throughout the dragging process, maximizing efficiency and productivity. Furthermore, when the “MaxiMukMoover” is not required for other tasks, it can be easily removed.

Cost of Innovation: Approx. $80 ex GST plus 4 hours labour


Koojan Downs’ ‘Dry Gums’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Dry Gums was designed to keep gum boots dry on the back of the ute when raining, as sometimes it’s best not to bring them in the cab when they are too muddy or smelly!

How does the innovation/idea work? Dry Gums helps to dry your boots with its upright position and aerated design, whilst maintaining functionality with a lightweight, but strong frame that adjusts to fit most ute tray headboards. When your Dry Gums is no longer needed, simply remove it and store away for the summer!

Cost of Innovation: $60

Connors Junction Feedlot’s ‘T-Grab’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Shifting tyres to silage pits by hand is labour intensive, dirty and time consuming work. With a limited work force and time a precious commodity, we needed a better method of getting tyres onto the pit for distribution.

How does the innovation/idea work? Fitted to an excavator, the T-Grab collects, holds and transfers tyres from the tyre stockpile across to the pit simply and efficiently. Tyres only need to be handled during placement. Watch the T-Grab in action below!

Cost of Innovation: $600


Jindalee Feedlot’s ‘Bunk Hungry Boards’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge?

Jindalee had a trial of Friesian X calves with an average induction weight of only 150kg enter into their feedlot program. They had to place a cable along the bunk to stop the calves from slipping under the bunk rail and over the bunk into the feedlot. In doing this, they came to realise the cattle could no longer reach the feed on the far side of the bunk.

How does the innovation/idea work?

Our Hungry Boards hook onto the bunk and decrease the width of the bunk. This pushes the feed closer to the pen side of the bunk and allows the calves to access all the feed.

As the boards hang from the bunk, they can angle of the boards to be adjusted allowing more or less space in the bunk as the cattle grow. The hooks are secured over the bunk, and the boards are heavy enough to not move in the bunk. However, they are also light enough that two people can remove them quickly to maintain bunk hygiene.

Cost of Innovation: $1250 Inc GST


TFI Southern Cross Feedlot’s ‘TB Straw Spreader’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Bedding is becoming common practice to increase cattle comfort and wellbeing in both conventional and sheltered feedlots.

At TFI’s Southern Cross Feedlot, they use a variety of bedding including straw, woodchip and almond shell throughout the winter months. The task of spreading the bedding evenly can be inefficient and require excess manual handling. In addition to this, bedding that is not distributed evenly can cause cast cattle. Once TFI are at their 30,000 head capacity, throughout their bedding program they will be spreading in excess of 10,000 bales a year, dependant on weather.

How does the innovation/idea work? The TB Straw Spreader, manufactured by Maintenance Manager Tim Bagshaw, reduces the need for manual labour and is more efficient than traditional practices. The TB Straw Spreader breaks up and evenly distributes bedding quickly and safely.

Cost of Innovation: $3,500


Pakaderinga Feedlot’s ‘Cattle Cable Crimper’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Fixing heavy cattle cable to eyelets can be a time consuming, difficult job, and can often pose a personal safety risk. Pakaderinga Feedlot’s Cattle Cable Crimper innovation has helped their maintenance team bypass these issues.

How does the innovation/idea work? The Cattle Cable Crimper makes attaching cattle cable to eyelets safer, faster and easier. It achieves this by mechanically putting a tight 180 degree bend in the cable, which facilitates easy fitment of cable clamps. Watch the above video to see the Cattle Cable Crimper in action.

Cost of Innovation: $100 – 150


Launcells Feedlot’s ‘Drop Free Sock’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Launcells use a molasses based liquid supplement. This is transferred from a storage tank by pump and delivered into the mixer using a pipe. After loading the supplement, the liquid continues to drip from the end of the pipe. Dripping increases shrink (loss), splashes on windscreens attracting dirt and dust and the low pH of the supplement erodes the paint from machinery.

How does the innovation/idea work? The Drip Free Sock is lie flat hose fixed to the pipe outlets. After loading, the lie flat is folded over using a bar and simple pulley system, preventing drips. The lie flat hose is dropped down for loading by releasing the pulley.

Cost of Innovation: $57 total.


Bombine Feedlot’s ‘Gunk’ Innovation

What’s the issue/challenge? Bombine has invested in a shed for feeding cattle. They want to ensure each pen has sufficient bunk space available at higher pen stocking densities, but still provide flexibility and ease of cattle movement.

How does the innovation/idea work? The Gunk provides a section of bunk that can be swung open to close the central feed lane. This enables an alternative direct access of cattle to the cattle yards, located at the end of the shed. Unlike a traditional gate, the Gunk also maximises bunk space available to cattle when closed, ensuring feed intake is not compromised by inhibiting feeding space, even when pens are stocked at higher densities.

Cost of Innovation: $1650 total.




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