Monitoring the health of your flock, improving weight gain for better sales, or leveraging data to make the most of your herd—these are just a few of the benefits that a quality animal scale can bring to your business.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that there are over 30.1 million beef cows in the US alone in 2022. With the average price of beef estimated to be $7.55 per pound, it’s clear that even a small change in a cattle’s weight can result in big profits or losses. That’s why a quality animal scale is so important.
This doesn’t just apply to cattle, either. Veterinary scales can give useful insights into an animal’s condition, though even some agricultural scales can be used to log this important health data for animals of all types. Quality scales also have a wide range of features to tailor to the needs of many owners, which can make choosing the right animal scale for your application a difficult task. So how do you know which one to choose? Use this how-to-guide to help you weigh your options with these 5 main factors to consider.
Choosing the Right Animal Scale: 5 Factors to Consider
How large are your animals? What’s the size of your herd? Will you need to take your scale on the go, or will you be mounting it in place?
These are some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself as you choose an animal scale that works best for both you and your livestock, and other factors like construction design and software compatibility will need to be considered too. Aside from needs specific to your operation, some of the most common animal scale selection factors are:
- Application – how you plan to use the scale
- Portability – whether you’ll need to take your scale to the animal or the animal will be coming to you
- Size – how large of a scale you’ll need
- Construction – how the scale is built
- Data usage – Some scales are more basic, while others can track an animal’s weight gain/loss and even give valuable insights about the animal’s status.
Because so many owners and veterinarians now leverage digital solutions to monitor their animals, software compatibility is another important factor to consider. Some animal scales may only be able to transmit their data to certain platforms. Choosing one that can send data to your own livestock monitoring software will help you make the most of your animal scale — which can boost your profit margins, too.
The first question to ask yourself as you choose an animal scale is what your application will be. Veterinary scales used in offices differ greatly from the livestock scales found on a farm, so deciding how you’ll be using your scale will narrow down your options the most.
Some typical animal scale applications are:
- Small livestock scales, for weighing animals like sheep or goats
- Large livestock scales, for weighing animals like pigs or cattle
- Veterinary scales, which could be used to weigh small pets
- Farm bars, which can be placed in squeeze chutes for weigh-ins as livestock enter the stall
Your application will also help you think through other factors like portability, size, and construction further down the road, so make this your first point of consideration.
Getting around is essential to many animal-related industries, so deciding how portable your animal scale should be can help ensure that you pick the right one for your operations.
Regarding portability, there are three different categories of animal scales. They are:
- Mobile scales. Often hauled with a pickup truck and taken to the animals’ site, mobile scales can feature a rubberized platform and steel pen sides to make them durable enough for transport. They can be locked down to prevent cage movement and minimize damage and also use an independent air ride suspension system for further protection. Simple, versatile, and rugged, mobile scales are ideal for navigating the farm.
- Portable scales. Many of their design properties are similar, but while mobile scales are meant to be transported to the farm, portable scales are designed for use at multi-weighing sites. They’re hauled on flatbed trucks instead of pickups, are often made with a deck-and-pen side for easier loading and unloading, and are made to endure the conditions that come with weighing an animal in multiple locations.
- Stationary scales. Rather than bringing them to the animal, it may be more efficient to mount your scale at a given location like a squeeze chute or feed trough and weigh the animal there. Stationary scales come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate different animals and use the same weighbridge design common in the rail scale industry, making them particularly tough.
Portability is also a critical consideration for owners planning to sell their livestock at a market. By proving the animal’s weight on-site, owners who sell by the pound can ensure that they’re selling your livestock for its full value.
You wouldn’t want to use a platform scale designed for household pets on the farm, so the size of your animal scale will impact your decision greatly.
Fortunately, whether you need one for a furry friend or for weighing large numbers of beef cows, there’s a scale that fits your animal. American Scale carries a range of animal scales in different sizes, like:
- Rice Lake VS-12 Dual Range, which is used for smaller animals of up to 33 pounds
- Rice Lake VS-34 Single Ramp with Handrail Scale, ideal for veterinarians or for herders of smaller livestock like sheep
- RoughDeck® EQ Equine Floor Scale and Indicator Package, which uses a matte-style platform and extension cord for readouts, allowing for greater safety
- RoughDeck® SLV Single Animal Livestock Scale, for larger livestock like cattle
Size considerations aren’t just about the animal; it’s important to match the size of your scale to the space you’ll have available too. A scale that’s too large for your truck or stall won’t be much use, so think about your weighing area as you factor in size as well.
Even if an animal scale matches your portability and spacing needs, you’ll want to make sure it’s built with the design you need to do the job. There are many different ways to build an animal scale, and the unique features each possess can impact the ease of weigh-in and the comfort of the animal. Some common building components you may want to consider are:
- Steel pen sides, to keep the animal from climbing off the scale.
- Rubber platforms, for noise reduction when the animal moves about.
- Ramps or gates, with which you choose depending on whether the animal will need to climb an incline to enter
- Locking or suspension mechanisms, to minimize scale damage during transport
- Mounting mechanisms, for scales that must be kept in place
- Moisture and dirt resistance, so that scales can be cleaned as needed
Like many agricultural scales, animal scales are manufactured to be particularly rugged. However, they may still be sensitive to elevation differences, as uneven terrain can sometimes affect their measurements. Some are built to give accurate readings at steeper gradients than others, but consider where you’ll be placing your animal scale to get the greatest accuracy possible.
5. Data Usage
Like so many industries, animal-related businesses are looking to technology to improve their operations. Data can help owners make the best decisions for their animals by delivering multiple insights, helping to calculate:
- Current weight, which can determine an animal’s value
- Rate of weight gain or weight loss, to help decide how much an animal should be fed
- Animal pregnancy, to see if an animal will soon give birth
- Drug dosages, which are often based on the animal’s weight
With this knowledge, owners are able to make the best decisions both for the animal and their business. For example, knowing livestock’s rate of weight gain can not only help owners better predict their future weight so that they can sell them at the highest price possible but can also let them know if their feed rate is too high, helping them cut back on costly feeding expenses. Because weight can be a key indicator determining health and proper mating times, owners can also cull and breed their animals to create the healthiest herd possible.
American Scale: The Heartland’s Animal Scale Provider
At American Scale, we’ve been supplying industries of all kinds with quality weighing solutions since 1985. Among those are businesses in need of an animal scale, and since we know how valuable your pets and livestock are to you, we take special pride in supplying the right scales for animals of all shapes and sizes. Nestled right in America’s heartland, we deliver quality scales and customer service to all our customers. Contact us today and let us find an animal scale that works for you and your four-legged friends!