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Pig management at your fingertips!

October 26, 2020

Mobile phones have many uses, with most people using them to send and receive texts and emails, catch up on social media, set reminders, check the weather, listen to music, take photographs and of course make and receive calls. Pig farmers have taken the use of mobile phones a step further and are now using them to help in the day to day management of the farm. Intrigued? If so, read on to see how farmers that Liz Donnelly, Pig Adviser, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise advise, use their mobile phone to  keep records, feed sows and manage ventilation and feeding systems.  

Recording information and monitoring performance is an essential part of pig production. Although the use of paper based systems is still common, more farmers are now using their smartphone to keep records. Instead of recording farrowings, weanings and services on paper and then transferring the information to the computer it is entered directly onto the phone. The information entered on the phone is automatically synchronised and saved on the office computer or to cloud based storage. This eliminates the need for paper, saves time and reduces the risk of making mistakes. It also means the phone can be used to view lists of sows due for farrowing, weaning, service or vaccination, check how sows have performed in previous litters and monitor performance of the herd.

Sows, especially lactating sows, vary in the amount they eat and when they eat. As such they should be treated as individuals. More farmers have therefore installed systems that allow the individual feeding of lactating sows. These automatic systems are managed either using a computer or smartphone. In practice this means the farmer can use his phone to check how much each sow has eaten and more importantly which sows haven’t eaten. They can also use the phone to increase or decrease the amount each sow is fed per day, set up feeding curves for different parities and change the number of feed times.

Many farmers that Liz works with also use their smartphone to notify them of a problem with one of the automatic systems on the unit. For example, if the temperature in a room rises above a certain level or feed is not delivered to pigs, the farmer receives a text or call telling him there is a problem. As well as this, some of the new ventilation control systems with wireless interface allow you to get an overview of the system and even adjust settings on your smartphone.

Another client also receives a call if the ‘shaker’ which is fixed to some of his bulk bins runs too long. If the feed in the bin doesn’t flow the ‘shaker’ is activated and vibrates, making the feed flow. However, if the ’shaker’ vibrates too long, a call is triggered to let the farmer know the feed is still not flowing. This allows him to immediately switch off the ‘shaker’ and investigate the problem.

Although the smartphone may be ‘smart’ in terms of its many uses on pig farms, it will never replace good management. However, there is no doubt smartphones will continue to play an important role in the management of the pig farm. ‘Management at your fingertips’ is the way forward!