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Community Based Dispensing Systems (CBDS)

Ability to accurately weigh very small meals, as well as larger meals that are consumed by individuals within the common group. Typically, 10–40 meals are consumed per animal in a 24 hour period.


To maintain the physical and nutritional consistency of the rations throughout the entire period that the treatment is offered.


To minimize the effect of individual animal behavior in that aggressive behavior can in itself be responsible for a bias in favor of certain animals within a research study.


There are a few companies in the market that offer community based electronic systems whereby two or more animals obtain feed rations from one feed dispensing device. These systems utilize a radio frequency identification device known as RFID attached to each animal that allows positive ID within a group of animals. Feed is available to these animals in a common feed bunk that is positioned on load cells. The theory is that many animals can utilize a relatively expensive electronically monitored feed manger and there by reduce the per animal equipment cost of such a system. These systems are highly dependent upon precision performance in order to comply with the basic principles of conducting successful feed trials. Some of the challenges beset community based dispensing systems are as follows:

Based on our 50 years of experience working with the top research institutions around the world and speaking with other thought leaders in this area, community based dispensing systems have deficiencies in meeting the criteria of the basic principle requirements associated with successful feed trials.

Comparison of Feed Monitoring Systems for Animal Research

There are only two types of feed monitoring systems for animal research available

which allocates feed to individual animals, that are group housed, through electronically activated access doors.

These two types of feed dispensing systems are worlds apart from each other. All nutritionally based research projects have one goal. The goal is to accurately measure individual animal feed intake from group housed animals. Systems with this objective must provide equal opportunity to every individual in the study. Treatments cannot be compromised in their purity from one animal to another or one group to another. It is the task of the researcher to select a system that will work in obtaining accurate results for any and all trials that are undertaken, and to accurately determine just how affective a particular system under consideration meets the fundamental principal requirements of any feed trial.

Community based dispensing systems have been available in one form or another for over 35 years. Early experience in measuring feed efficiency beyond the practice of individual penning of animals was undertaken with a feeding system known as “The Pin Pointer 5000”. This system allowed as many as 30 animals to share a concentrate ration that was being dispensed from one (1) grain bin. Observations were made and results were generated that questioned the accuracy of weighing many small meals per animal on a daily basis. There were instances where beef bulls were thought to have superior feed efficiency attributes when in fact there seemingly outstanding feed efficiency performance was the product of under weighing of small meals. This distorted the value of the bulls in the market. The Pin Pointer 5000 system faded in popularity and ceased manufacturing about 10 years ago.

A new generation of community-based feed dispensing units was introduced. These new systems which are currently being manufactured and utilized for determining feed efficiency largely exhibit the same fundamental deficiencies as the original and now defunct Pin Pointer 5000. However, what is different with the new CBDS’ is that that they are far more complex in design and dependent on sophisticated technology to accomplish a simple task, feeding animals and monitoring their intake. This complexity comes with a significantly higher equipment cost. Given the cost of these systems it is prohibitive for most institutions to feed animals individually.

  • Is feed intake of individual animals accurate when meals are often very small and many meals are consumed per animal within a 24 hour period?

  • Is the physical and nutritive consistency of the ration being maintained throughout the period that the treatment is offered or is the exposed ration being degraded over time?

  • What is the effect of particle separation on nutrient intake of individual animals when the degree of particle separation is unknown?

  • From a behavioral standpoint, what is the effect of more than one animal having to share a single point feed distribution system? How can the results be compared with an open feed bunk practice which is the standard method of delivering feed rations to both dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats on a commercial basis?

  • Is the barn and facility staff trained to operated and troubleshoot these complex
    systems? If the System is down how long does it take to bring it back online?

  • If you are feeding multiple animals from a single feed station and that feed station goes offline how many animals are affected and for how long? How does this affect the accuracy of your data?

Calan Broadbent Feeding System (CFS)

Electronically Controlled Feed Access Doors

In the early 1970’s there was a major breakthrough in animal research when a team of researchers at the North of Scotland College of Agriculture introduced the practice of feeding loose housed animals on an individual basis for the first time. This was brought about by the development of an electronically controlled series of feed doors, each of which could be accessed by only one animal. This was made possible by a new electronic animal identification system developed by Calan Electronics. This system was in fact the first animal ID system in the world. With the use of this new equipment, groups of animals could now be commonly housed yet individually fed. The net feed intake for each animal was made available through the summarizing of feed fed weights minus feed refusal weights.


Comprehensive feeding trials were undertaken to document feed intake on an individual basis as compared to a pen average. The results proved to be accurate thus validating the concept of what has become known as the Calan Broadbent Feeding System(CBFS).This system is now known simply as the Calan Feeding System and has become the industry standard throughout the world.


What has made the Calan System so popular is its accuracy and its simplicity. The amount of feed offered to an individual animal is weighed and placed behind the Calan Door. At the end of a given period of time, the amount of feed refused is also weighed. The difference is the undisputed net intake of the individual.

As news of the Calan Feeding System spread, researchers recognized that they could expect to gain valid research results using reduced animal numbers when compared to using pen average intake. As time progressed, other supportive equipment was developed by Calan to make the system more labor efficient and easy to manage. The development of the Calan Data Ranger incorporated feed ingredient weighing, thorough mixing and accurate dispensing of individual rations with a vacuum feed recovery system that collects and records feed refusal from each animal. The computerized scale system continuously collects, records and transfers data on a real time basis to a host computer.

What makes the Calan Feeding System (CFS) a superior research tool when compared to a community based feed dispensing system?
  • The CFS has been carefully designed to continue the practice of feeding animals in individual feed bunks whereby every animal has the opportunity to access their feeding position at will.

  • Animals feed next to each other thereby preserving competitiveness without compromising individual feed intake data.

  • The Feed is weighed and dispensed to each Calan Door only once or twice per day thereby reducing the potential for a weighing error. Typically, this is accomplished using one scale for all treatments and every replication.

  • Fewer and larger replenishment of the ration educes the element of error in weighing.

  • Researchers accept the premise that animals can separate feed ingredients on the basis of particle size. When each animal is allowed access to only one feeding position, particle separation is greatly reduced because as the feeding process progresses it will necessitate the eventual consumption of less palatable ingredients. If desired, periodic sampling of orts can determine the degree of particle separation. With the Calan Broadbent System, under no circumstances are animals forced to consume more than their fair share of less palatable ingredients or rations that have been previously picked over by other animals.

  • The Calan Data Ranger (CDR) is equipped with a scale system that features unique firmware and software that has been developed specifically for animal research.

  • The CDR has the ability to collect and weigh orts via an onboard vacuum system.

  • The CFS can accommodate multiple treatments within each pen configuration.

  • The CFS is easily maintained. Typically, trained research personnel can maintain the system with minimal expertise.

  • The CFS easily adapts to existing buildings with minimal effort.

Published Articles

Our founder Douglas Briggs was a recognized expert in the field of nutritional research.  He influenced the development of many research facilities, their design and their successful results.  This is something we are proud of and will carry into our future.


Two of the areas Doug was recognized as THE expert on was how to build a research facility and how to ensure you get accurate results with your research.  He documented his knowledge with these documents. Please download and share:


  1. Comparison of Feed Monitoring Systems

Make put the comparison data into a link. Make it downloadable as a PDF that is properly branded and formatted.

  1. How to Design a Research Facility

    1. See attached file. Edit the file, have it branded and have it as a PDF

Our Partnerships

We are proud of the Partnership we have built with many of the world’s top research institutions, feed producers, government agencies and animal healthcare providers Including:

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