Idento from Marknesse (Netherlands) makes special measuring units for weighing feed quantities for pigs and cattle for research in cattle and pig husbandry. By measuring the exact quantity of feed, a clear relationship can be established in the long run between the quantity and the composition of the feed and the growth of the animal and the milk yield.
Idento uses hermetically-sealed load cells from HBM for its measuring units, and they have turned out to be able to withstand the severe conditions and corrosive substances found in livestock stalls.
Idento supplies two feed measuring systems for livestock farming: The Roughage Intake Control (RIC) system for dairy cattle, and the Individual feed intake recording of pigs in group housing (IVOG) system for pigs. The implementation of the two systems appears at first glance to differ significantly, but that has more to do with the differences in body structure and feeding behaviour between pigs and cattle.
The underlying principle for both types of equipment is identical, however. There is a free-hanging feed trough in the middle of each side, resting on either one or two load cells, depending on the version. The load cell measures the weight of the feed in the trough before, during and after feeding, with an accuracy of either 10 or 100 grams, depending on the application. There is a structure around the feed trough with a port that gives the animal access to the trough.
Each animal carries a transponder so that the equipment knows exactly whether it may feed, and if so allows it access to a feed trough. The correct amount of feed for each animal can be placed in the trough. The port closes once the animal has eaten the amount of feed provided, or if it stops eating.
Collecting the feed and drink data enables institutions to investigate the effects of feed on, for example, weight gain, milk yield or the fat content of the milk, which means that feed can be optimised. Also investigated is what type and quantity of locally available feed gives the best results in raising livestock.
It is clear that exceptionally high demands are made on the load cells, which are intended to last some fifteen years, in particular because of the severe conditions in the stalls.
Especially the ammonia in urine and faeces is caustic and corrosive. Idento previously worked with a different supplier, but the load cells turned out not to be reliable enough because they were damaged by the corrosive substances. The company switched to the PW15AHC3 hermetically-sealed load cells from HBM. The load cells meet the IP68 or IP69K ratings for protection against the ingress of dust and liquids, and to date have been operating well.
Idento systems are controlled locally. The load cells are equipped with an A/D converter and the measurement data are transmitted digitally to the computer in the measuring station via a LAN cable. The data can be visualised there using Windows software in order to monitor the animal’s feed intake and its weight. The first raw analyses can also be made. The data can also be stored in ASCII files to enable exchange with other software systems, where further investigations can be carried out using the data.
Idento Operations, part of the Hokafarm Groep, is one of the world’s major suppliers of RIC and IVOG systems. These systems are supplied only to universities and institutions that are involved in pig and cattle husbandry.
Major markets are Europe, Japan, China, Canada and the USA, and the Middle East is becoming increasingly important. Idento also makes robotic milking machines and walk-through weighers. It doesn’t just develop the systems, but also makes the mechanical parts, the electronics and the software. The company has, for example, its own SMD (Surface Mounted Device) machine for producing printed circuit boards. Service and support are also provided by Idento itself.