Curiosity in growing digital sow feeders (ESF) for producers within the US began a number of years in the past when using gestation crates with sows began to be banned exterior of the US, mentioned Tom Parsons, professor of swine manufacturing medication at Pennsylvania Faculty of Veterinary Medication.
The manufacturing technique is of curiosity as a result of it permits for individualized vitamin for pigs.
“We had the sensation that in some unspecified time in the future the entire query of alternate options to gestation stalls was most likely going to come back to the US and so it made sense for us to go forward,” he informed FeedNavigator.
Use of gestation stalls continues to be a observe for producers in some elements of the US, however they’ve been banned in a number of states, he mentioned. A number of corporations, together with Smithfield and McDonalds have introduced that they’re or will probably be ending use of the manufacturing observe inside their provide chains.
Digital sow feeding could be an alternate technique.
“Our contribution has been attempting to grasp how can we take that expertise and apply it right here, in a North American mannequin, as farm dimension is completely different, labor seems completely different [and] the associated fee construction within the business is completely different,” he added.
‘Beautiful management’ and individualized feed
Within the system, every sow is electronically recognized with a radio frequency ID tag that may be scanned by the feeding station, Parsons mentioned. When a pig enters the station, the system reads and information the tag and dispenses a pre-set quantity of feed particular for that animal.
Gestating sows are restrict fed so the feeding system solely supplies feed as soon as a day, he mentioned. “What it permits us to do from the feeding perspective is management the quantity of feed that the sow will get,” he added.
“You’ll be able to feed her completely different quantities on completely different days, significantly throughout gestation if her dietary wants are altering, and there are methods to equip the feed station with probably a number of rations,” he mentioned. “We are able to combine these in several parts, so not solely does she get completely different portions of feed, however she would get completely different qualities of feed – perhaps greater in protein, greater in vitality throughout gestation.”
“We’re actually solely restricted by our creativeness by way of how we are able to feed sows within the system,” he mentioned.
Feed financial savings, by digital feeding, could be “important,” as a result of the system can be utilized to supply the “proper meals, to the precise sow, on the proper time.”
In comparison with the gestation stall system, there are feed financial savings of a couple of quarter-pound to a half-pound of feed per sow, per day, mentioned Parsons.
At present, one feeder can assist about 60 to 80 sows; bigger farms add extra feeders, mentioned Parsons. It takes about two to a few weeks to coach animals to make use of the strategy.
“We’ve got a 10,000-sow farm that’s utilizing the expertise.”
The advice for producers constructing a brand new barn is so as to add about 10% extra flooring house – bumping house per sow to 20-22 sq. toes, he mentioned.
“We can take out the stalls and put within the ESF methods,” Parsons added. “We don’t want extra house, however the expertise is that the system runs a bit simpler and there’s much less stress on the sows if there’s a bit extra space.”
Ongoing analysis questions
The feeding system helps using particular person vitamin for every sow, mentioned Parsons.
“There’s an actual upside potential to the system as we fine-tune our information of find out how to feed sows,” he mentioned. “We’re solely going to get higher at it.”
There’s analysis ongoing taking a look at using the ESF system with farrowing and lactating sows, he mentioned. The computerized management of feed permits using completely different blends of feed components relying on the day.
The pc system tracks each animal that eats and generates an alarm for those who missed their feed, so the system may be capable to assist determine probably sick animals, he mentioned.
Going ahead, there’s curiosity in including scales to the feeding system to enhance precision manufacturing and observe sow weight achieve, Parsons mentioned. If a sow was not assembly a longtime progress curve, the system may then produce an alert or alter the ration to return her to the curve.
There’s additionally curiosity in including cameras to probably observe physique situation rating and utilizing strain plates to detect early indicators of lameness, he mentioned. “The hope is that the expertise could be higher at lameness detection than individuals, so we would be capable to detect it sooner and get to the intervention as shortly as potential.”
“That’s the long-term upside potential that this expertise has,” he mentioned. “Management of physique situation and lameness are the 2 decrease hanging fruits that persons are engaged on actively proper now.”
Challenges to implementation
Nevertheless, there stay some challenges to switching to make use of of an ESF system, mentioned Parsons. The preliminary challenge is having the right barn design – however it’s a drawback that solely must be solved as soon as.
Coaching workers to handle sows maintained in a gaggle quite than in particular person stalls takes a special ability set, and must be addressed every day, he mentioned. “That’s the place we’ve seen extra challenges.”
A approach to assist swine producers make that transition is to stroll them by all of the steps concerned, he mentioned.
“After you have the animals individually recognized electronically, then there are issues different than simply feeding them that you are able to do with the system,” he added.
Nevertheless, most extra actions like spray marking animals for vaccination or checking out sows that want to maneuver to a different location for farrowing should be deliberate prematurely, Parsons mentioned.
“As soon as now we have these sows recognized electronically, you can begin to benefit from what the system can do – however you must suppose a day prematurely,” he mentioned.