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Developing an Automated Feeding System for Distributing Concentrated Goat Feed
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.orgCitation: Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 36(2): 125-140. (doi: 10.13031/aea.13546) @2020
Authors: Yi-Chich Chiu, Wei-Chih Tsai, Gang-Jhy Wu Wu
Keywords: Automatic, Goat farm, Labor saving, Smart agriculture.
An automatic feeding system, employing a suspended-type feed dispenser and capable of detecting different zones and accordingly adjusting the quantity of feed distributed, was designed for distributing concentrated feed to goats.
The assigned tasks were satisfactorily completed by the system with no major malfunctions or problems.
The farmer of the test barn reported a 10% increase in lactation quantity with no additional labor.
The automatic feeding system is a means of resolving the labor shortage problem and achieving an improved feeding strategy for goat husbandry.
Abstract. To resolve the labor shortage problem and to achieve better feeding strategy for goat husbandry in Taiwan, an automatic feeding system (AFS) was developed. Because of the relatively small scale of Taiwanese goat farms, goats at various growth stages are kept in the same barn but separated into zones. Different concentrated feed formulas are needed for goats at different growth stages. The majority of goat farms in Taiwan adopt elevated-floor-type barn. The zone-separating fences and the meshed floors hinder the application of walking-type feed dispenser. Corresponding to the farming conditions, the AFS was designed to use suspended-type feed dispenser and is capable of detecting different zones and adjusting the distribution proportion accordingly. This system comprises a feed bucket and distribution unit, a suspended feed bucket moving unit, and a sensor control unit. A programmable logic controller is used as the controller. Electric power needed to move the dispenser and to power other devices is translated through a conductor rail system, and the control signals are transmitted using wireless transceivers. The feed bucket incorporates two sub-buckets for different types of feed and distributes different proportions and quantities of feed at different times according to the feeding zone. A vibrating motor was used to prevent bridging and jamming of feeds inside feed buckets. The system was also equipped with ultrasonic sensors to detect the quantity of feed remaining in the buckets and proceeded with an automatic refilling procedure when the quantity remaining is too low. A maximum of 12 time periods for feeding can be scheduled daily. Functional tests results showed that the AFS could achieve the design goals, which include evenly dispensing various proportion concentrated feeds according to the zones, at several set disperser travelling speeds. The vibrating motor could realize zero feed remaining in the feed buckets. Field tests were carried out in a 55- x 10-m goat barn with 385 goats for six months. The barn was divided into six zones. Goats were fed 8 times per day, four times as much as compared to the conventional feeding scheme, with preset amounts of concentrated feed distributed per goat per meal. Field test results indicated that the AFS could satisfactorily fulfill the assigned tasks with no major malfunction or problem. In addition, the farmer of the test barn reported a 10% increase of lactation quantity with no additional labor after using the system for 1 year. This system proved to be feasible, have practical value and commercial potential. An extensive application of this system in the future is expected to resolve the labor shortage that besets goat farming.(Download PDF) (Export to EndNotes)