The bright red metal structures that dot the landscape in cattle country show that Feed Train is on the job giving ranchers some help.
Mobile bulk feed bins in the product line provide space for up to 6,250 pounds of shelled corn with even more storage area in the stationary containers. Single bunks offer access to food for small herds, and their squared ends align perfectly in a feedlot. However, the unique combination of feeding space and mobility provides ranchers with functional practicality.
As the first piece of equipment in the product line, the mobile system of multiple connected bunks made the Feed Train look like railroad cars on a track, and it gave the company its name.
Co-owner Irene Feeley Lutz said that the idea for it came about because manually retrieving, loading and replacing stationary bunks “took too much time.” The traditional method of supplying food required the laborious job of using a tractor to relocate one feed trough at a time to another location or loading several on a trailer and driving them to a fresh spot.
In contrast to the tractor-trailer operation, the Feed Train offers a smarter and more efficient method. It can establish a feeding area anywhere, or it can create a magnet-like chain of cars that entices the cattle to follow it. The innovative design by co-owner Bob Lutz created the highly functional serial bunk delivery system that eliminates some of the most time-consuming aspects of the feeding process.
The mobile system’s scalable flexibility appeals to hobby farmers, curious first-time livestock owners and 4H competitors as well as professional ranchers who raise cattle for a living.
Achieving an Ideal Design
With the steering system perfected and the patent secured, the Feed Train started creating efficiencies that still go well beyond time-saving benefits. The design eliminates health concerns about accumulating manure, prevents mudholes during wet weather, and promotes rejuvenation of grass. The company’s versatile and practical equipment takes a load off cattle ranchers by being “easy to use and built to last.”
Lutz studied at Iowa’s Drake University, one of the finest institutions of higher education in the Midwest, before developing her interest in providing agricultural equipment for America’s ranchers. The mobile Feed Train “facilitates the supplemental feeding process in a rotational grazing system,” according to the company’s website. “Limited ancillary feeding with grass can produce economic gains for stocker feeding operations.”
A mobile system that can move a herd from one fresh green pasture to another allows grass feeding that can change management practices.
Focusing on Ease of Mobility and Practicality
A pickup or tractor can easily pull a chain of feed bunks around curves, in and out of feedlots, up and down hills, and through gates when terrain and weather conditions allow. A train of linked units provides continuous feeding space, and it can increase as ranchers hook up as many as it takes for specific purposes. The Feed Train’s patented steering system features a close radius turning ability that allows the bunks to follow along with ease. One person on a tractor or in a pickup can move a complete feeding facility from location to location in minutes.
Cattle move along smoothly as well because they just follow the feed, a handy practice for corralling them at the roundup. The company website notes that closing a gate on cattle is “much easier than hustling them,” and it creates a less stressful environment for ranchers as well as animals. Frequent relocation of herds helps protect the sod and relieves concerns about accumulating concentrations of manure in feeding areas.
The process allows ranchers to extend pastures, regreen grazing areas, flesh out heifers during the breeding season and make the roundup easier. The company’s original goal for the Feed Train was to help ranchers save time and prevent wasted effort. Over time, however, it has proved its productivity in many other areas.
Choosing Durable Construction
The practical design of the Feed Train mobile system puts an emphasis on ease of use, and the sturdy unibody construction makes it last for many seasons. Each link in the chain connects to the one in front of it with a single lynchpin, and the only bolt in the entire system secures the tongue of the last in line. Each bunk has the same construction, but the caboose assembles differently.
Changes to the length of the mobile feeding system can occur readily by adding or removing bunks from the front end of the train and relocating the hitch. It is ready to go when the hitch on the front bunk accepts the one on a truck or tractor.
A toehold trough and ridge runs through the bunk’s length to help an animal extricate itself when it crawls in or gets shoved into the food supply. Such mishaps can invariably happen when feeding cattle, and the company’s exclusive toehold design helps ranchers guard against it. The bunk’s design keeps the loss of food to a minimum with hooded drain holes at each end that let water freely escape.
The solid, unibody construction achieves durability for the interior with a reinforcing lip on the sides. Standard 14” tires mount on the typical four-bolt agricultural hub. The innovative concept that Feed Train developed into a versatile way to feed, lead and help protect cattle offers incentives for ranchers who want to streamline operations.