Roller vs. Link Chains: understanding chain choices for your livestock feeding machinery

Published 4th April 2024

Livestock feeding machinery relies heavily on dependable power transmission to function smoothly. Two common contenders in this arena are roller chains and link chains. While both can get the job done, understanding their key differences equips you to make an informed decision for your specific needs.

How roller and link chains are designed?

Roller chains are composed of inner and outer links interconnected to create a continuous loop. Each link typically features two pins around which rollers freely rotate. These rollers engage with toothed sprockets, facilitating the transmission of power from one sprocket to another.

In contrast, link chains consist of individual links joined together to form a flexible chain. Each link usually contains two or more holes or slots through which pins or rods are inserted to connect adjacent links. Simple link chains commonly interact with chain pocket-type sprockets, where each link falls into a pocket or slot to transmit power.

At Hustler, we chose to design and manufacture all our feedout equipment using roller chains as reliable power transmission is paramount. While both can handle the job, we believe roller chains offer superior performance characteristics, and we are going to explain why below.

💡 Did you know? Hustler zinc-plated roller chains are the toughest chains on the market today with a combined total rating of 24,000 lbs. We also chose to use larger 47.5 mm (1.87 in) diameter rollers and pins to make our chain drive system almost twice as strong as our competitors. A greater surface on each roller pin drastically increases the chain life because the wear and tear is so insignificant that they can’t stretch or snake as a result.

These roller chains equipped our various ranges:


Increased wear and tear

Due to their design, roller chains have fewer contact points between the chain and sprocket teeth compared to link chains. This translates to less friction, minimising wear and tear on both the chain and sprockets. In high-usage livestock machinery, this translates to longer chain life and less frequent maintenance needs.

Because roller chains are built with precision-engineered components like rollers and bushings, this design ensures smoother operation and superior resistance to wear. This enhanced durability makes them ideal for demanding applications in livestock machinery, where reliability and longevity are essential.

Strength to handle heavy-duty tasks

Roller chains typically possess higher tensile strength compared to link chains of similar size and configuration. This increased strength allows them to withstand higher loads of bales or silage and operating stresses encountered in heavy-duty livestock machinery.

Better performance in harsh farming conditions

Whether your livestock is housed indoors in winter or outdoors all year round, moisture, dust, and contaminants pose constant threats to the gear. Roller chains are designed to mitigate these challenges. Internal lubrication channels ensure even distribution of lubricant, maximising performance even in these harsh environments. This translates to smooth operation and minimises downtime for your vital feedout equipment.

Smoother power transfer

Efficient power transmission is crucial in livestock machinery, where consistent operation is essential. Roller chains, with their smooth engagement with sprockets, offer a clear advantage over link chains. This translates to optimised torque, less constraints on gear such as the hydraulic motor and improved performance.

Precision for reliable operation

Roller chain design provide smoother engagement with sprockets and accurate alignment between the chain and sprockets compared to link chains. This minimises the chances of the chain jumping off, especially during sudden changes in load or direction and reduces the risk of derailing even under demanding conditions. Consistent tension distribution, thanks to the rollers and bushings, further reduces the risk of derailing caused by uneven tension. All this translates to reliable operation and peace of mind for the operator. 


Roller Chains Link Chains
Roller chains provide smoother engagement with sprockets due to the rollers, which reduce friction and wear on both the chain and the sprockets. Link chains may engage with sprockets, gears, or other mechanisms to transmit power, but they lack the rollers found in roller chains. As a result, link chains may exhibit more friction and wear during operation, leading to reduced efficiency and shorter chain life.
The design of roller chains allows for more precise alignment and consistent tension distribution along the chain, contributing to smoother operation and reduced risk of derailing. Link chains are simpler in design compared to roller chains and may be more cost-effective for certain applications where precision and smooth operation are not critical.
Roller chains are commonly used in applications where precise power transmission and durability are essential, such as machinery, automotive engines, and industrial equipment. Link chains are commonly used in applications such as lifting and hoisting equipment, fencing, and general-purpose utility chains.


Both roller chains and link chains have their place in farming. However, roller chains offer a compelling package of benefits for livestock machinery applications. Their superior wear and tear resistance, durability, strength and performance in harsh environments make them a reliable choice for designing our machines.

Remember that proper installation, maintenance, and alignment are crucial for any chain type. If roller chains offer inherent design advantages that minimise the risk of issues and downtime, keeping your livestock equipment running smoothly with appropriate maintenance is essential.

For all our equipment, we recommend to oil regularly the roller chain of them – using preferably ‘Chain Bar’ oil – every 100 hours of operation (feeding out hay and silage) or every 50 hours if adding supplements or feeding acidic/corrosive products. Remember to also check the tension of your chain regularly, and to oil the roller chains after each washing, as well as before the machine is parked up for any extended period.


Think ahead of the herd with Hustler, contact us today for a quote or to book an on-farm demo!

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Here at Hustler, farming sustainably is at the heart of everything we do.

Our belief in sustainable farming practices underpins our range of world-leading livestock feeding solutions. If you are looking for farming equipment near you or buying livestock feeding equipment, contact our friendly team today!