What to Know About Weighing Livestock

Weighing animals is one of the most important tasks in livestock management. Every farmer or rancher should have livestock scales like cattle scales to stay up-to-date on what’s going on with all of their animals to optimize productivity. 

If you aren’t weighing your animals, you’re missing out on invaluable data that could be used to enhance your operation. For example, if your cattle are experiencing rapid weight loss, it’s critical to contact your veterinarian to avert potentially dangerous diseases that could wipe out a herd. When diseases are treated in a timely manner, the spread to other animals can be prevented.

If you’ve never tried to weigh livestock like cattle, you may not realize that it’s quite a bit more complex than you think. 

Types of Scales

There are various scales to choose from, most of which have a platform, load bar, and an indicator. The most basic indicators allow you to record information manually for use in a computer system. More refined versions have internal memory, so you can store the animal’s history for future reference, allowing for comprehensive analysis of the data. Portable scales are popular as you can easily monitor the animals’ weight no matter where you are on the property. Permanent scales can be used when you need to measure weights of multiple animals. They’re often installed on concrete which provides maximum stability.

It’s important to keep in mind that studies have found automated weigh systems won’t necessarily record a weight every single time the animals traverse a weighing platform. That can be due to a number of reasons, such as an RFID tag reader that fails to identify the cow or the cow passing over the scales too quickly, but the majority are usually weighted. Research published by ScienceDirect found anywhere from 85 to 98 percent of 46 cows were weighed by the automated system. 

Software Compatibility

Taking advantage of technology like livestock management software is a great way to improve productivity, but that means you’ll want to be sure to purchase scales that have incorporated software for herd management. That will allow you to update all of your records automatically. The scales are often outfitted with an electronic ID interface that allows for the identification of every animal on the property to prevent wasted time having to identify them manually.

Platform Requirements

No matter which type of scales are installed, you need to know the correct size of the platform. If it’s possible to get a platform connected to an alleyway, it will help the animals get onto the scale faster, more easily, and safely. Rubber matting provides better traction and a reduction in noise. 

Measuring Speeds

If you have a small herd, the measuring speed may not matter as much, but with a large herd, weighing the animals quickly can make a dramatic difference in how much time it will take. Just five seconds per animal can add up to many hours of saved labor and, ultimately, money.

Advanced Features

Some scales have advanced features that allow them to record body conditions such as pregnancy. These data features can be very beneficial when relying primarily on scales to make management decisions. 


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