HASKELL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – We’re all familiar with the Mars Rover, climbing over the red rocks and craters in space. Now, there is a new rover closer to home, riding through the dusty pastures deep in Haskell County.
Driving down the backroads in Haskell County, gravel and dust being flung up, you would not expect to see a large white cattle feeder driving itself. It’s built like a truck without a cab, a large feeder welded onto the back and long lines of cattle closely following.
That’s the Ranch Rover, a creation come to life by a 25-year-old River McTasney. A natural born problem solver, McTasney grew up ranching, working from dusk to dawn tending to his herd and nearly 4,000 acres of land.
“I was out feeding one day and thought, ‘there’s got to be a better way to do this,'” McTasney recalled.
Every day, or every other day in the winter months, McTasney is out manually feeding his cattle, one bag of range cubes at a time. It’s long hours, tiring days and seemingly monotonous work, but their cattle can’t go without. Three hours of feeding a day, close to 15 hours every week, and the job is finally over.
“That’s 15 hours we could be doing more high-value type of work, whether that’s fixing fence or working on equipment,” McTasney explained.
Now 27 years old, McTasney’s dream of developing an autonomous cattle feeding rover has come to life, two years in the making. McTasney used those skills learned on his family’s ranch, like welding, to put together the behemoth that is the Ranch Rover. Building it, welding it and even teaching himself coding to make the Ranch Rover move on its own.
The machine, McTasney said, was built from the experience on the ranch to not only make their jobs more efficient, but to also solve other common issues, as well.
Cattle ranching is an industry where time equals money. Meaning while McTasney and his family are hand-feeding their cattle, they are losing precious hours tending to other needs around the property. Thus, the reason the Ranch Rover came to be.
McTasney said his family spends more than 500 hours a year feeding cattle, a lot of time saved by using the autonomous Ranch Rover. Add to that time, the nearly 15 calculated hours his family spends opening gates each year. With the Ranch Rover feeding their cattle regularly, they are able to turn their attention elsewhere, whether that be work or family matters.
However, the Ranch Rover is not just a more efficient method of working. McTasney said he hopes it can help bridge a large gap between traditional agricultural methods and new, modernized technology.
“We’re not removing the human element, we’re removing the human error,” McTasney reasoned.
If you’ve ever worked cattle, you know there are days the work has to get done in the sweltering heat, freezing cold and rain. The job does not stop if you want to come out breaking even or on top. There are days you won’t want to go get it done.
McTasney said he wants to take the stress of cattle ranchers with the Ranch Rover, knowing regardless of the conditions, your animals will be taken care of. Not only will they get fed, though, they will also get on a routine. If used strategically, McTasney said the machine could be programmed to your regular routes you take while loading pens or separate pastures, making them more accessible and right where you want them to be when you check on your herd firsthand.
“As the technology becomes available and as it becomes reliable, we can solve problems in places that ultimately to make our lives better,” McTasney said. “It can provide us with more time to be doing the the quality things that we enjoy, like hanging out with the grandkids and kids or catching a baseball game.”
Hoping to have made the perfect all-in-one cattle feeder and herd management machine, McTasney said he wants to start a large wave of new agricultural-based technology.
The Ranch Rover features sensors, much like you’d see on your car, as well as cameras that can send signal wherever it roams. McTasney said he wants to develop a module you can hook up to your vehicle, where you can drive the route you’d like the Ranch Rover to take. All that data, pictures and video can be processed and transferred, even starting and stopping the rover, to a phone application he is working on; meaning all of it with be at the touch of button.