The concept of Precision Farming is based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops to develop a decision support system (DSS) for the whole farm management with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources. Swine breeders and pig farmers are now increasingly using Precision Livestock Farming techniques due to the number of benefits it hosts. The alternate idea behind this is also to limit the need for human intervention through automated data collection processes to enhance decision making and overall livestock quality management. Embracing such methods are sure to boost outputs, but let us take a deeper look in the various situations that warrant the use of such techniques.
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- Tracking Weight and Feed Consumption
Manually weighing your livestock population at regular intervals requires a significant amount of manual labor. Plus, handling and transporting the animals to and fro while checking their weight stresses the animal out, especially when it’s done by individuals who don’t handle them on a regular basis. But, it is imperative to do so in order to ascertain the feed quantities required by them. On a smaller scale, carrying out such an activity is easy as you can individually measure the feed space required. However, when it comes to larger populations that are fed through commercial feeders, it is impossible to determine from which feed space the animals have eaten as well as quantity consumed. By using automated livestock weighing scales, you can reduce the requirement of manual labor while ensuring accuracy of results in such cases.
- Automated Weight Collection
Nutrition and Pharmaceutical (N&P) studies are another reason why regular population testing is required. In some cases, researchers want results from the entire population, which can be quite a tedious task to carry out on commercial farms where the population ranges from 1,500-3,000 animals on an average. This can be challenging as there is really no cost-effective way to measure individual feed consumption. However, it is possible to obtain individual body weights without manually weighing individual animals through specialized livestock feed trackers and pig weighing scales. These tools automatically measure and collect each individual’s body weight. This data is then analyzed to find patterns and trends to make more informed decisions. Currently, you can use tools such as:
- Automatic livestock weighing and sorting scales with no radio frequency identification (RFID)
- Automatic body weight collection with scales on feed intake recording equipment
- Electronic sow feeder with integrated and automatic weight capture
- Automatic Feed intake Data Collection
While you can calculate the total feed consumed by measuring the feed delivered to the population, you can’t assess the individual feed intake of your livestock. In such cases, taking samples from the population set isn’t ideal either, as it cannot be used as a comprehensive variable when trying to measure the impact of different types of feeds on different populations. But, with the use of equipment such as Feed Intake Recording Equipment (FIRE), researchers can compare individual results against pen-mates, barn mates etc. This enables researches in better understanding the different between genetics and what supplements they require for the best output.
All of the data collected by livestock weigh scales and feed trackers can all be used to enhance the overall productivity of the farm while capitalizing on the resources available. Apart from enabling quick decision making, analysis of such data can also spot illness, the causes and even provide insights on treatment options. So, there you have it! Using such tools and techniques increase the number of data points available which can then be used to analyze trends and make well-informed decisions, thus saving money and time and labor.
Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California. He enjoys everything mechanical and electronic, computers, the internet and spending time with family.