This automatic, self-feeding system transfers pelleted grain from an outside bin into each pen in this transition-heifer barn at Lamb Farms near Oakfield, N.Y.

Two pens — one on each end of the barn — control the flow of feed. When grain levels fall below a certain level in these pens, it triggers the system to release more grain to all of the pens.

The system eliminates hand feeding. However, subordinate heifers may not get equal access to grain, which can lead to more variation in growth rates. Buildup of fine particles in the tubes leading to the manger can occasionally be a problem, too, say Kristin Johnson and Kristen Merle of the dairy’s calf and heifer operation.

Grain intake averages 5 to 6 pounds per heifer per day in the two transition-heifer barns that use the automated feeders.