Cattle Scales and Weighing Equipment

Published on Mon, 03/06/2023 - 3:51pm

Cattle Scales and Weighing Equipment.

 By Heather Smith Thomas.

Weighing livestock is a beneficial performance measurement tool.  An accurate weight gives insight into animal growth, health and performance, enabling producers to make more informed management decisions using data that is accurate and easily collected on a weigh scale.

There are many kinds of scales available for cattle producers—whether for weighing on the farm or ranch as single or multiple animals, or in the feedlot, or at other types of cattle facilities.  Portable scales are useful in some operations.  Various companies manufacture and/or sell cattle scales, and there are options to fit any producer’s needs.  Here is a sampling of some of the companies and what they offer.

Rice Lake Scales
Rice Lake Weighing Systems has several mobile scales including a single axle (15,000-pound capacity) and tandem axle scale (20,000-pound capacity) that can be moved to any location.  Another option is a single animal scale, for just one animal.

They also offer a portable scale that doesn’t have wheels and can be moved around with a forklift or crane.  There are also several types of stationary scales; one has a 25,000 pound capacity.  

There are various options including a pen with deck and sides suspended on load cells at four points within a portable base frame, or a mechanical pipe-lever weighing system.  The Rice Lake Farm Bars are heavy-duty, electronic load cell scales that can be mounted under most cattle squeeze chutes.

The Rice Lake 920i® Livestock Weigh Center features a built-in 920i® indicator and ticket printer in a weatherproof enclosure.  The 920i® Livestock Indicator can be equipped with Group Weighing or single animal Rate of Gain software. With its USB port, animal weight results can be transferred to a flash drive and uploaded to a PC database or spreadsheet.  Rice Lake’s dual-power 482-AG livestock digital weight indicator is an ideal Legal for Trade indicator for the ranch or farm. The 482-AG is specifically programmed for animal handling needs.  The LV livestock ring scale provides a total system for use in new or existing livestock barns or processing plants. Each NTEP-Certified (National Type Evaluation Program, an approval system created by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standard and Technology and the National Conference on Weights and Measures) Legal for Trade scale is custom built to fit the exact specifications and requirements for each application.

Kristen Evans is part of the Cattle Scales Store and Tru-Test weighing systems team.  “We are a distributer for Datamars products and Tru-Test scales.  We sell their entire line of portable and permanent scales and RFID readers.  Customers can choose anything from a set of load bars to put under their chute to a set of load bars and platform for their alleyway, and it is all custom-fit.  Our entire team uses these systems on their own places.  When a customer calls, we can answer questions and look at the type of chute and facility setup they have, and work them through what would be best for their operation.”  

“We only sell single-animal scales, and no group scales.  Our load bars just go under a squeeze chute or alleyway, to get accurate weight on a single animal.  It’s a whole system, to fit how that operation wants to weigh the animals—in a chute, or alleyway—and we pick the proper load bars,” Kristen says.

“Once we pick your load bars, we can choose the indicator, which is the brains of the operation.  Do you want to see just the weight?  If that’s the case we have a product called the S3 that simply shows weight.  It is simple, and has a low blue-tooth entity so you could pair it with a phone if you want,” she says.

The next options provide more.  “We can provide weights and cattle ID, and get into 100 custom fields.  We can keep going, with what you want that indicator to do.  We move from just getting the weight, to managing many things chute-side.  The higher-end indicators have more memory, store data and can be plugged into a computer or have items that can be exported.  They all have bluetooth connectivity so you can download the Tru-test APP and pull data off.

“If you use a program like CattleMax you can use those Excel spread sheets to upload it into your account.  If you just use Excel or paper records you can also just use it that way.  Most people are weighing cattle because they are selling them and need to know the weight,” she says.

“On the flip side, like our own operation—with less than 100 head and selling directly to a feedlot—some people just want to know what their steers weigh before they hit the feedlot.  Since I already have these scales in my alleyway, I can also get cow weights when we wean, preg check or vaccinate. It’s a dual purpose setup,” she says.

Many feedlots have group scales, for weighing groups of cattle, but some feedlots also order single animal weighing systems for use with their health facilities.  “If they have to pull sick animals and figure out dosages for medication, this is helpful.  Many treatments are crucial regarding dosage, relative to weight of the animal.  These scales are an efficient and accurate way to know what an animal weighs.  This is a huge asset for any operation.  With many medications, it’s important to not underdose or overdose,” Kristen says.

“When COVID hit, many people were selling their beef animals directly to consumers, right off the farm, and had no way to know what they weighed.  If you have scales, this is very beneficial.  We also have herds that lease bulls from us and we have a contract with them to buy their calves because we have a connection with a feedlot.  These scales are not certified for trade, but our customers can at least watch the animal walk off the scale and see what it weighs,” she says.

Being able to track rate of gain, or figure out animal weights for genetic selection can be helpful.  A certain bull’s calves may not be up to herd average (or might be better than the average) and a person can determine which bulls to keep and which to cull. A scale can help you make informed decisions.”  

The load bars can be put under a chute in a permanent setup.  “Some chutes need brackets added, and some already have brackets.  Our team can determine what’s needed if customers tell us what type of chute they have; we know what will work in terms of brackets.  We also ask for measurements, to make sure it will fit,” she says.

“We sell load bars and also offer aluminum platforms to go with them, with a good nonskid pad on top.  You can put these in an alleyway or use them with a portable system.”

“These all come with warrantees. A couple team members have had their systems for more than 20 years, with no major issues. These are built to last,” Kristen says.

The load bars are weather proof and sealed.  “The indicators the brains of the system, are weather proof while you are out there working, but then you should bring them indoors because they are electronic.  They are all rechargeable, so you don’t need electricity at the chute to use any of this.  It’s like your cell phone; you charge the indicator before you go out,” she says.

“This can be a great management tool that you can use many different ways.  Every day we find some new way someone is using it that is convenient for them.”

Cardinal Scale
Made specifically for farmers and ranchers for weighing livestock, Cardinal Scale’s innovative solutions provide for a wide variety of weighing needs. Cardinal Scale’s Harvester, LS, and LSE models are designed to weigh multiple head of cattle in stockyards, feedlots, and private farms.  Cardinal Scale’s SLS single animal livestock scale can weigh smaller single animals such as swine, horses, sheep, goats, and single cattle with high accuracy.  Cardinal Scale also has portable options for ranchers who have larger areas to cover and want to take a scale to another facility or to use with portable corrals.

Cardinal Scale’s Weight Wrangler Mobile livestock scale can be hooked up to a vehicle to move, and the Weight Wrangler Portable model can be moved with the aid of farm machinery.  These models have high-grade panels and decks, swing gates that can be customized, and indicators that can withstand the elements.  They also have printout legal for trade weight tickets.

For stockyards, feedlots, and private farms, Cardinal’s fully-electronic Harvester livestock scales feature pre-cast concrete decks and include livestock pens and two-end swing gates with easy-close latches.  The diamond pattern concrete deck provides sure footing for livestock.  There is a 0.8-inch-high gap between the concrete deck and steel livestock pen, which allows space for easy washout.  The NTEP legal for trade LSC series farm scale utilizes Cardinal’s 20,000-lb stainless steel shear beam load cells which feature superior welded waterproof seals and protection against caustic and corrosive environments.  These scales are available in 12.5, 25, or 30 ton capacities, with sizes up to 52.5 feet long x 10 feet wide.

With a weighing solution suitable for all levels of livestock weighing, Gallagher scales are also fully compatible with the Animal Performance web & mobile app for data management and analysis tools.  

An EID tag reader is a critical part of making the most of a livestock weighing system, enabling you to reap the maximum value from animal EID tags.  Rather than making decisions based on herd averages, EID tags allow each animal to be evaluated as an individual, tracking each animal’s performance and offering insight for optimizing performance.

Gallagher load bars are designed to last.  Made from hot-dipped galvanized, corrosion-resistant steel, with load cells that are protected, fully waterproof and containing no moving parts, these systems ensure accurate weights, year after year.  Available in cabled and wireless options with weight capacities from 3300 up to 11,000 pounds, these load bars are suitable for weighing single or multiple animals.

WW Livestock Systems/WW Paul Scales
Bo Sanders is with WW Livestock Systems and its sister company WW Paul Scales.  “We offer livestock scales with a wide range in size.  The smaller ones handle small animals like sheep, goats and pigs and these range from manual scales to digital scales to certified scales,” he said.

“We go up from there to 2400-pound cattle scales for smaller calves, that might be useful on a cow-calf operation.  We have a 3000 pound scale that is used in a lot of cow-calf operations and at fairgrounds for show cattle.  Our 4000 pound scale is a little bigger and used on many ranches, and we also offer a 6000 pound scale for groups of animals.”

All of these scales can be either stationary or portable; both options are available.  “We made the first manual scale ever built, in 1952.  We also offer digital or electronic options,” Sanders said.

“We can’t call these official scales but I think of our company as official scales for many major stock shows like Denver and the Cattlemen’s Congress.  Every major Texas show uses our products.  We have scales at many state fairs and county fairs, so we are involved in the cattle business from the older generation (on the farms and ranches) to the younger generation, showing their animals.”

Any of these scales can be ordered directly from the company or from a regional dealer.  “If you call the company we can put you in touch with the distributer closest to you.  If there isn’t one near you, we will handle the sale in house.  People can also get on our website and see the various territories and sales representatives and get contact information.”