Looking For An Automatic Feeder For Your Ranch Animals? Here Are 3 Features You Should Look For

Whether you're at work all day or simply have too many animals on your ranch to feed by hand, large animal automatic feeders ensure that they're kept fed and healthy. If you're purchasing an automatic feeder for your ranch, what should you look for? Keeping your animals fed is an important task, so you'll want to find an automatic feeder that's durable enough to resist inclement weather. You'll also want one that supports multiple types of feed so that you're not constrained in what you can automatically feed your animals. Below are three features that you should look for in an effective large animal automatic feeder and why they're important to keep your animals healthy and well-fed.

1. Ability to Dispense Hay

Many automatic feeders on the market are only capable of dispensing dry food such as oats or seeds. While these food sources are appropriate for some animals, they're not the best choice for hindgut fermenters such as horses or foregut fermenters such as cattle. Horses and cattle have digestive systems that are very effective at turning the tough cellulose fibers that are found in grass into short-chain fatty acids that can be used for energy. This digestive process takes a significant amount of time, and dry food such as grain can move too quickly through their digestive system and cause gastrointestinal problems.

The closest thing to a natural diet in a ranch environment is either pasture land or hay, so it's important to find a large animal automatic feeder with a chute large enough to dispense hay. Feeding your animals a diet that consists mostly of hay helps to keep them healthy by mimicking their natural diet of pasture grass.

2. Programmable Timer

A calendar-based programmable timer is also an important feature in automatic feeders. Unfortunately, some automatic feeders have very simple timers that function like an egg timer—all you can do is set the time between feedings.

With a programmable timer, you're able to schedule feedings based on the time of day and which day of the week it is—if you're able to feed your animals by hand on the weekend, but need to feed them automatically while you work during the week, then you can schedule your automatic feedings appropriately and forget about it. With a simple timer, you would need to continually adjust the timer or turn off the automatic feeder in order to make it fit your schedule, and it could result in extra feedings or wasted food if you forget to turn the timer off.

3. Weather Resistance

If you're placing your large animal automatic feeder outside, it needs to be weather-resistant. The feed in the machine should be enclosed to keep it dry during storms, and the automatic feeder should continue to operate even in very cold temperatures—you need your automatic feeder to be reliable no matter what the weather outside is like. Some automatic feeders do not have an enclosure for the feed, which means that it will become waterlogged whenever it rains. This simply results in wasted feed and extra expenses to care for your animals.

Additionally, your large animal automatic feeder should dispense feed into a tray instead of on the ground. This also makes your automatic feeder more resistant to inclement weather—if it's raining outside and the ground is muddy, your animals are likely to trample the feed into the mud. Elevating the feed on a tray helps keep it safe.

To sum it up, the ability to dispense hay helps keep your animals healthier, a programmable timer makes the automatic feeder more convenient to use and weather resistance avoids your feed being destroyed or feedings being skipped due to inclement weather. While large animal automatic feeders that have these features may be more expensive than their simpler counterparts, it's important to keep them in mind when you're looking for an automatic feeder.