Meat & Livestock News

Automated Bunk Management: A Leap Forward in Feedlot Efficiency

Veterinary at the farm walking in cowshed checking the cows

In a groundbreaking collaboration, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), Bovine Dynamics, the University of Queensland, and Manabotix have developed an algorithm for automated bunk scanning.

This innovation promises time savings and enhanced decision-making accuracy for the beef feedlot sector.

The study compared three feed allocation methods: fully automated, semi-automated, and non-automated. The results showed that full automation of bunk management can match the performance of a skilled bunk caller without any adverse effects on cattle health or carcass outcomes.

Sam Platts of Bovine Dynamics highlighted the potential benefits of this technology, stating, “Australia is at the forefront of this technology.”

He emphasised the importance of consistent, precise, and informed decisions in bunk management, which align with the advantages of automation.

The automated bunk scanner, developed by MLA and Manabotix, can determine the amount of feed left in a bunk after a 24-hour feeding period.

This technology provides a foundation to either partially or fully automate bunk management programs, tailored to individual feedlot needs.

The research involved over 5,500 Bos indicus cross steers, fed for an average of 109 days.

Performance results indicated no significant differences between the semi or fully automated groups in terms of body weight, daily gain, or feed intake.

Looking ahead, further research is planned to refine the algorithm, aiming to offer economic benefits to producers. This will also involve testing the system on various cattle breeds and under different climatic conditions.

On 12 October 2023, Manabotix will showcase the bunk scanner at the ‘Monitoring the Bunk’ session during the ALFA SmartBeef event at Elders Killara feedlot.

MLA has reported a rise in the use of this scanner in Australian feedlots over the past two years, with daily usage on 150,000 cattle to aid semi-automation of bunk management.