Down on the farm; load cells in agriculture

Published On: September 15 2020


As the last of the straw bales disappear from the fields and the grain harvest is in, load cells continue to play vital roles both in traditional and automated farm setups.

Load cells feature in almost every aspect of modern farming. You’ll find them in four-wheel steering systems for agricultural vehicles, enabling them to manoeuvre in small spaces and maximise crop yields. They also feature as

 “Linear position and load sensors that are part of advanced mobile autonomous vehicles linked to the GNSS for vehicle guidance and load weight measurement …  Other automated and autonomous machine tasks comprise the sensing component as part of closed-loop systems where often multiple functions are synchronised, such as with vision systems and linear motion positioners or rotary actuators for tasks including in-row weeding or selective crop harvesting.”


We discovered load cells were at the heart of a new no-till seed rill system back in 2018: see our blog here:


Weighing the harvest

Load cells have long been used to weigh straw bales, and in grain hoppers to weigh the grain itself. Wireless load cells placed either beneath the feet of a silo or in a suspension cable can provide real time feedback and monitoring data without the need to visit the silos in person. Indeed, load cells are pretty much there for every stage of the grain’s processing, checking on the weight of grain stored, shipped, malted or milled and even when dispensed to make, for example, exceedingly good whisky or delicious cakes!

For more details on the role of load cells in making whisky, see our blog:


Load cells on the dairy farm

Load cells have been used in dairy cow lameness detection, an important issue for dairy farmers as a paper published in “Animals” reveals:

“As lame cows produce less milk and tend to have other health problems, finding and treating lame cows is very important for farmers. Sensors that measure behaviors associated with lameness in cows can help by alerting the farmer of those cows in need of treatment.”

Most of the research centres on the differences in weight distribution of a standing cow. One study found that:

“The asymmetry in weight bearing between left and right limbs (Leg Weight Ratio or LWR) was found to be a sensitive measure for detecting severely lame cows… They also found that standing LWR measurements were highly correlated with locomotion score for cows with sole ulcers.”

Load cells were also used in research to assess the overpressure in a milking teat. As a paper in the Journal of Dairy Science explains:

“Vacuum applied to the teat during the milk phase, or b-phase, of pulsation unfolds the teat canal and allows milk to be removed from the teat sinus. This vacuum also causes blood and other tissue fluids to accumulate in teat tissues. The action of liner compression (LC), applied during the rest phase, or d-phase, of pulsation, helps to maintain milk flow by removing accumulated fluids in teat-end tissues.”

The research team used load cells to create an artificial teat sensor that could measure the LC force directly.


Home-grown load cells

We design, manufacture and supply our own range of load cells made at our base in Reading, Berks. So there’s no waiting for regular stock, no delayed deliveries, just the load cells you need, when you need them.

Check out the stock in our online load cell shop, or call us with your specific requirements.