SIGMT Winter 2023

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SIGNATURE MONTANA | 73 e first system required at least 12 hours of manual labor every day to harvest 10,000 pounds of sprout feed, explains Gondeiro. "We have a large grain bin for barley that we would hand scoop into trays, and we had to use a wheelbarrow to get it into the feed truck," she recalls, "We also had to clean at least four hours a day to prevent mold since it was a heated building with high moisture levels; moldy feed would make the cale sick." Aer four years with the labor-intensive system, the McCafferty Ranch was looking for solutions to challenges or feed alternatives when a neighbor, Ma Woodworth, offered to help. "I visited their ranch, and they showed me what they were doing with the fodder barn," Woodworth recalls. "We decided automation would help take a lot of the labor out of the fodder system." With Woodworth's experience and a team of engineers, the McCaffertys solved many of their challenges with the hydroponic fodder system. Woodworth manages a company specializing in heat-treating automotive parts in Michigan using robotics and automation systems. "I gave it to my head engineer - the challenge was right up his alley," says Woodworth. "I told him this is what they do by hand and asked how can they do it with robots." e new system developed by Woodworth and McCafferty reduced the amount of water used and created a more efficient system with more constant amounts of feed used and produced, resulting in more consistency across the board. The McCafferty Family, from left, Logan holding June, Megan holding JW Gondeiro, Joel McCafferty holding McCoy Tex, Cindy McCafferty, Kelly and Matt Tex, holding Rylie Tex, ranch in the foothills of the Little Belt Mountains near Belt, Mont. With the new hydroponics fodder system, the four-generation McCafferty Ranch earns enough income to support two families. Six-day-old barley fodder grows in stacked trays and is watered by pressurized gravity flow water from the mountains behind the McCafferty Ranch. The ranch purchases feed barley from north central Montana farmers and stores it in a nearby bin. Joel McCafferty says he hopes to expand his grain storage so he can purchase more grain when the price is low.

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