Efficiencies abound with automated sorting scale technology

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Increased productivity helps lower labor cost and improve pig performance.

By Duane Kleve, general manager, Nedap Livestock Management

Operating a finishing facility today with real-time information on finishing pig weight and performance helps pig farms better work through today’s razor-thin margins.

That’s because automated sorting scales sort pigs according to performance and offer farmers a way to feed pigs based on individual weights. As a result, farmers see maximized feed efficiency and more consistently finished groups of pigs.

Research shows automated pig sorting technology increased revenues by $7,000-$10,000 (€5,933-€8,476) per year per 1,000-head barn.[1]

The technology offers the following five benefits, including:

  1. Reduce guessing and sorting losses

Automated sorting eliminates estimating weights and manual sorting. Instead, continuous collection of growth data allows accurate forecasting of daily gains, allowing you to plan deliveries and transport up to four weeks in advance.

With automated sorting scales, each pig is weighed and directed to one of two feeding areas where it receives the diet best suited to the pig’s weight. You can customize diets based on daily growth data and your farm goals and better meet packer specifications.

When a pig reaches market weight, the system automatically sorts it from the group by directing it to a delivery section.

“Our sort loss has dropped from $3.20 to $0.14 (€ 2.71 to € 0.12) per head,” says Roger Cech, a Nebraska pig producer who upgraded to automated sorting scale technology in 2019. “You can project consistent loads and set up marketing much better with the data.”

  1. Gain time savings

Automation also drastically reduced the time Cech’s team spends sorting, marking and loading market hogs.

“Without the automatic sorters, it took us an hour to mark, then another hour-and-a-half to sort each load of 175 pigs,” says Cech. “That ends up being about 15 hours per room, and we have six rooms to empty.”

Since animals are automatically sorted, Cech’s team can loadout in about 15 minutes, using only one to two employees to get the job done. For an operation with two employees and three phases of pigs, that equals 1.5 hours of labor per room. Plus, he says, “the pigs load more calmly than without using the sorters.”

  1. Produce more meat per foot of floor space

Housing facilities must be used efficiently to get the most return from this asset. Automated sorting scale technology can help boost barn efficiency by helping you produce more meat per foot (meter) – helping you achieve up to 99% effective use of available floor space.

  1. Feed appropriate diets to lower feed cost

It’s important to make the most of your feed investment and not over- or under-feed pigs. Automated sorting systems weigh each pig and direct it to one of two feeding areas with the diet best suited to its actual weight.

  1. Gain real-time, 24/7 data

Access to continually collected, accurate activity, weight, growth and sorting data means you can make more informed, timely individual pig and group management decisions.

Take control of your finishing program and quit feeding and marketing to averages. Investing in automation can help increase the uniformity of your finishing groups and get them to market on time, every time.

Contact Duane Kleve at duane.kleve@nedap.com with your questions about automated sorting, or visit nedap-livestockmanagement.com to learn more.

[1] Pork Information Gateway. 2006. Factsheet. Performance Records and Their Use in Genetic Improvement. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020: http://porkgateway.org/resource/performance-records-and-their-use-in-genetic-improvement/