Innovation Nation: New solutions to old problems in the ag industry |

Innovation Nation: New solutions to old problems in the ag industry

By Savanna Simmons for Tri-State Livestock News
Ag innovators are coming up with new ideas to solve old problems.
Bale Handler

The fundamental functions of cattle production haven’t changed much in the last 100 years. Cattle need to be fed, doctored and watered. The way people are solving problems that go along with those basic functions has changed, given advances in technology and innovation. Here are a few examples of people and businesses that are finding new solutions to old problems.

Rawhide Portable Corral

In most instances, cattle must be brought to a pen in order to be worked, but with Rawhide Portable Corral, the pen is brought to the cattle. Rawhide Portable Corral system is a set of panels that folds up neatly onto a single trailer with squeeze chute. One person can set up and fold down the panels within 10 minutes, with no lifting required, due to the hydraulic jack.

“Owner and inventor, John McDonald, was formerly with Bull Riders Only and hauled a portable arena across the country while also working as a stock contractor with bucking bulls. He came up with the idea for the Rawhide Portable Corral in the mid-nineties because there was no easy way to use a portable system with bucking bulls and he wanted his idea to be able to haul down the road at the speed limit while also doing it with one person. In 2002 he relocated his family from rural North Central Kansas to Abilene, Kansas so that his idea could become reality. He sold his first Rawhide Portable Corral in 2003,” said Cassy Wilson, head of marketing with Rawhide Portable Corral.

Rawhide Portable Corrals come in three different sizes with the largest able to accommodate 500 head. Each size of the portable corrals, when folded in, fits through any gates a pickup can, and transports at the same speed on a highway. The wheels hydraulically raise and lower and do not need to be removed when using.

“The Rawhide Portable Corral, no matter what the size or the design, will always have the following features: one person can use the system, there will be no lifting of panels, and the system may be unfolded and set up for use in ten minutes or less. Additional features include the electric over hydraulic jack on every model to go from transport mode down in to corral mode. This feature is why the Rawhide is the first hydraulic corral on the market – no other corrals on the market had this feature until John introduced it,” Wilson said. “John also designed the panel collars so that when the corral’s panels are connected to each other, the top and bottom connections can rotate independently, allowing for the panels to flex with the terrain. Something you do not get with standard panels.”

The pens are made in their facility in Kansas with care being applied to each weld, plasma cut, and paint job.

“Rawhide has been selling corrals for 15 years now. The Processor has been available since 2010, at which time the original Rawhide design was retired, and just last summer the new Original was re-introduced to consumers, a modified original corral with permanent transport wheels,” Wilson said. “Our corrals have been very well received and we have even been called the ‘Cadillac of the portable corrals’. We continue to have a waiting list for our corrals, although now it is the shortest that it will ever be due to our increase in production, because we build every corral to order.”

The Abilene, Kansas, company has a website, where you can learn more about each size and the options available, like including a head gate, hydraulic alley way, or loading chute. The Rawhide Original starts at $11,000, and the Rawhide Processor starts at $15,400.



Tumbleweed Fence Cleaner

You may know the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds by Bob Nolan, in which he is “drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.” Tumbleweeds are romanticized in the song as lonely and free and the writer is tumbling along.

In these days, tumbleweeds are seen in fences more often than tumbling freely, and Jordan Reed, of Hanging H Welding in Lusk, Wyoming, has created a solution for these captured tumbleweeds, which create a wild-fire risk and pull over fences. His tumbleweed machine is an attachment for tractors that has large roller brushes that pulls tumbleweeds from fences and agitates them into small pieces.

“There were definitely some hurdles with the chopping of the tumbleweeds. Getting them off the fence is easy part, the chopper was the hardest to get how I wanted,” Reed said. “Tumbleweeds don’t like to shred easy. All the gears and chains to get speeds right took me a little bit of thinking.”

He came up with the idea, he said, over a lot of sleepless nights.

“My dad and I are always pitching tumbleweeds, and last year I said I had had enough and was going to build something,” he said.

He has used the machine on fencelines on their ranch 45 miles north of Lusk with great success. The machine doesn’t operate in rough terrain, though neither does the tractor it’s attached to. The operator does have the ability to tilt the machine to match fenceline angles for those that are tilting under the weight of wind and tumbleweeds.

The machine is still in a prototype phase, however, Reed hopes to finish legalities and necessary paperwork to be able to offer his attachment for sale to the public this summer.

To contact Reed visit his Facebook page, Hanging H Welding LLC.

Auto-Load Bale Handlers

Move over skid steer, there’s a different machine in town. The Auto-Load Bale Handler by Pronovost is a trailer that picks up and transports round or square dry hale or silage bales. It uses a patented loading arm designed to turn the bale and load it.

The bale wagon was first introduced by Pronovost in 1993 as a round bale feeder. They have since expanded to several round- and square-bale options.

“With its extra robust chassis and tandem axles, the auto-load bale handler helps reduce man-power, fuel costs, time in the field and minimize soil compaction,” the website states.

The three sizes of round bale handlers have capacities of 10 to 23 bales, with the option to purchase a loading arm to stack a layer on top. The two square bale handlers have capacities to load eight to 36 bales.

“This is an important option because it increases capacity,” said Dominic Bouchard, with Pronovost, a Canadian company. “Another important option is you can have the choice of adding air flotation tires, especially if you will use it for silage bales. There is also a choice of electric or manual controls.”

Bales are scooped and loaded in the same direction as the baler without the need to stop, to create ease of use and quick loading. Once the operator is notified by the full load indicator, the load can be transported to the drop-off area and easily unloaded horizontally in less than two minutes. The sides of the bale handlers close in for easy storage or highway traveling.

“This is still a niche product. People can do without it; not every farmer or operator is willing to spend that money to do an operation that he can do with the equipment he already has. They will end up saving time in the short run, but in long run, it pays for itself,” Bouchard said. “The idea is that it saves time and labor.”

Pronovost’s bale wagon is the most rugged of similar designs, though it does not stack bales when it unloads like some competitors’. Most of their machines from more than 20 years ago are still in operation, Bouchard said.

The round bale wagons are priced from $25,000 to $50,000 and they are available to purchase in the United States. Visit for more information on the Auto-Load Bale Handler.


Biodegradable Lick Tubs

The days of watching empty barrels zip across the pasture on windy days are behind us. With biodegradable lick barrels or tubs, offered by progressive supplement companies, plastic and steel barrels are being used less.

These edible tubs offered by Rio Nutrition, which are livestock-safe, have been making an appearance in pastures, especially those in rough terrain or forested areas. The Envirotub, Rio Nutrition’s biodegradable tub, is one of the few, if not the only, product of its kind that is entirely edible. The lick tub is chewed down by cattle as it is consumed, saving the rancher time two-fold, by eliminating the need to go pick up the empty barrel and also when checking to see how much product is left, it is very easy to see how much of the tub is left.

The Redwood Falls, Minnesota, company still offers lick tubs in plastic barrels or RangeRocket sleds as well. Their latest innovation is the RangeRocket refill program, which fits two of their 125 lb. octagon Envirotubs perfectly into an empty sled. Rio Nutrition is in the stages of shifting Envirotubs exclusively to 125 lb. sizes.

“The 125 lb. is lighter–it’s half the weight–and easier to handle. We found that a lot of rancher’s wives or kids put tubs out and going from 250 to 125 lbs. is much more user-friendly,” said founder and co-owner Trevor Greenfield. “It also helps the ease of scattering tubs in terms of using them as a grazing management tool. Some may just want them by water and that’s fine, but the smaller tub can be scattered and used to optimize your land base.”

Greenfield said they made the decision to change sizes due to feedback from those using the Envirotub since it was launched about seven years ago.

“We don’t just create a product and sit back. We are always listening to folks and trying to accommodate their challenges as well as fix them,” Greenfield said. “With the 250 lb. Envirotub, we had some that when the weather got warm, we had seepage out the sides, which is the nature of molasses tubs. With the 125 lb. tub, we made it short, with 12-inch-high sides and an eight-sided tub, which offers more structural strength. The bottom of the tub is also ribbed so it has a good strong base.”

Greenfield recommends that the Envirotub not be used in cattle-dense areas, like feedlots, or in low-lying, wet areas. The biodegradable ingredients include cellulose, which is unprinted paper, and food-grade resin. The biodegradable tubs are the same price point as comparable size plastic tubs for one simple reason, Rio Nutrition doesn’t wish to push one product or the other on its customers.

“Because of the economies of scale, and due to the volumes of plastic tubs sold, the plastic still costs less than biodegradable tubs, but we’ve marketed it so that it’s at the same price as plastic,” Greenfield said. “We want to respect the fact every ranch has a different set of needs and challenges, and we want to provide what they want not what we want to sell, so we make Envirotubs available at the same price as plastic.”

To read more about Envirotubs or to order product, visit Rio Nutrition’s website’s BioBarrel with Single-Trip Container (STC) technology features a “proprietary blend of ground cereal straw and wood fiber, coated with a soy flour solution that is pressed and molded. It is made of 100 percent renewable materials,” according to their website.

They also offer WeatherAll Protection to ensure the biodegradable container does not degrade too quickly in wet conditions. Crystalyx states that the tub disappears with the mineral, making it’ “easy to see how much is left as you check pastures,” on their website.

BioBarrels are 50 pounds lighter than the returnable steel barrels, making them easier to move. The BioBarrel was introduced in 2006.



Imagine being able to put a water tank anywhere there’s a waterline, without having to run electricity to it. Thermosink makes this a reality. The waterer company started by White Lake Colony offers single- or double-bowl models. The Thermosink uses a float system and the natural movement of water to keep water fresh and open all year. Both the single and double models provide enough water for up to 200 head; the double-bowl Thermosink can be put on both sides of a fence to service two pens.

Rob Boehm, owner of Interstate Waterers in Mandan, North Dakota, has used and sold the product for nearly 15 years.

“They work; I use them myself and you can’t destroy them,” Boehm said of Thermosink, which is made of heavy-duty polyethylene. “They’ve got a guarantee on them for life. I have sold semi loads the last 15 years. We have feedlots that have 45 to 50 of them, and when they expand the feed lot, they put in more Thermosinks.”

Using heaters with Thermosink is unnecessary. Boehm said he experiences no trouble with freezing in the winter, and he has fresh, cool water in the summer.

“You don’t need any power to them. I live up in the cold country and have no problem with them at all,” he said. “I have nine in my yard. The water stays nice and cold so there’s no algae buildup; I’ve always got clean, clear, cold water. The calves bypass the dams and go for the waterer. It makes a big difference when you can add another 20 pounds on calves.”

For more information on Thermosink, visit, or to get in contact with Boehm, call 701-391-1286. He has shipped Thermosink to many states.

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