Electronic scales are heavily used throughout the agricultural industries. Bench scales are used to weigh out seed, chemical additives, and other small items. Platform scales weigh out small amounts of feed, monitor feed usage, weigh 55 gallon drums of fluids, and can even be used to track the weight of animals. Large floor scales can be used to weigh cattle, or larger amounts of contents. Bin scales may be used to keep track of the amount of feed used. Custom scales are designed for a very wide range of specialty weighing requirements. One specialty application is pig sorters. Within the hog industry, there is a specific requirement to bring the animals to exactly the market weight. If the pig is too heavy, or too light, there is a penalty in the amount paid by the processors for the animal. Also, because of very tight margins in this industry, it is important to properly feed the pigs so that they reach this target weight. Pigs are typically raised in batches. Of course, individual animals have their own characteristics. But the goal of the farmer is to have a predictable, targeted weight gain for the entire batch of pigs. Those animals that are gaining weight too slowly must be fed in a manner that maximizes their weight gain. Those that are gaining weight too fast must be placed on a lower calorie feeding pattern that will bring down their weight gain to the same range as the rest of their batch. Within the hog industry, a specialized piece of equipment, called a Pig Sorter, has been designed to facilitate this process. Basically, the Sorter consists of a cage to hold the animal, load cells to determine the weight of the animal, and a specialized digital controller that processes the weight data and determines feed choices based on a number of parameters. The controller operates a number of pneumatic gates on the Sorter that allows an animal to enter the cage, and then after weighing, opens gates to direct the pig to the proper feed bin that matches their weight gain. The controller also has the ability to store weight readings, and with some of the higher quality brands, such as Arlyn Scales Smart Sort Innovations Pig Sorter, can communicate this data in a number of formats. The pigs must be trained so that they willingly enter the weighing cage. This is achieved by placing the cage with the entry and exit gates left in the open position, directly in the penned path that the animals must use to get to their feed. So the young pigs will walk through the device a number of times each day. Once they are acclimated to the Sorter, it may be turned on so that it will open and close the various gates so that the pig may be accurately weighed. This only takes a few seconds, so that many animals may move through the Sorter The barn environment in which the Sorters operate can be quite difficult for standard digital weighing equipment as the animal waste products can be quite corrosive. The Sorters themselves should be constructed of a material which will not corrode. Arlyn Scales uses welded stainless steel tubing for the construction of all major components of the Sorter, including both the inside and outside cages, and the gates. Most importantly, the load cells should be made from stainless steel. As the animals grow to close to their market weights, they can apply tremendous forces to the weighing devices as the hurl themselves through the sorter. Stainless steel load cells are much less prone to shock and overload abuse as compared with load sensors that are made from aluminum or other metals. Furthermore, the highly corrosive environment can very quickly ruin load cells that are not made from stainless steel. A protective coating should be applied over the electronics on the stainless load cell as further protection. As yet another step, the load cells should have stainless guards around it to prevent rodents or the pigs themselves from attempting to chew on the load cells or the attached wires. The digital controller must be easily set up by the farmer. There should be enough flexibility so that a number of different weight sort groups would cause the desired actions by the Sorter. The digital display must also be large enough, and easy to see in a barn environment which is less than ideal. There can be a number of ways to save the weight data and forward it to a computer for further storage purposes or analysis. An ideal method is to plug a USB memory stick into the controller. It can have enough capacity to collect weeks, or even months worth of weight data. Whenever required, the memory stick can be removed from the controller and plugged into a PC to download the data. Appropriate software is then used to load this data into an Excel spreadsheet or an Access database table. The most advanced controllers, the Arlyn Scales Version 7, can actually send the data in real time through either a wired or wireless Ethernet connection. The data can be monitored and collected by any Internet connected computer. In this manner, a central office can monitor and collect data from a large number of Sorters in a wide variety of locations. Advanced data analysis software gives the farmer an excellent tool to allow him to determine appropriate actions for current market conditions. The Arlyn Version 7 has a number of other advanced features, such as a large color touchscreen. Automatic menus prompt the operator to enter setup parameters. Very little training is required to obtain even quite sophisticated results. The bright color screen presents the data in a clear and concise presentation. As only the necessary buttons will appear on the screen within any given operation, the actual operation of the Sorter becomes very easy to control.
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