Smart systems in pig production: greater efficiency and transparency

Published on
November 15, 2017

With all the possibilities we have in this day and age, you would think that we would now know everything about each individual pig – from its date of birth, weight, development and breed to what antibiotics it is on. But this isn’t usually the case. When a lorry load of fattening pigs arrives at the abattoir, we typically only know the farm that they have come from and what their average weight is. There is a world of information to be discovered, and now that is possible thanks to a range of new applications.

Thanks to its highly competitive nature, the Dutch pig farming sector is leading the way in coming up with and implementing new ideas. This will help pig farming to remain at the forefront in the future, so it has a better answer to the question ‘where did this pork come from?’.

Accurate management

Sow farming is a major source of inspiration for innovation. Because sows live longer than porkers on the farm, they receive an individual ear tag, sometimes equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID). Not only does that give the animals access to their feeding areas, but it also allows farmers to see exactly how much each animal has eaten and to make adjustments as necessary. It is all about accurate management.

Another example relates to automatic climate control. Many farms regulate the climate in the barn, using smart systems that take into account the indoor and outdoor temperature, air humidity and daytime/night-time routines. These methods involve the use of sensors, algorithms and smart solutions all working together. This is known as ‘precision farming’ and these solutions are expected to play an increasingly important role in the future. With automation, a lot of labour can often be saved. And with precision farming, there are environmental benefits to be reaped and cost savings to be achieved.

Automation and data use

New developments include cough detection and sorting systems. With cough detection, a system can identify noises and determine whether a pig is coughing. If so, the farmer receives an alert on their phone. With a sorting system, pigs can be automatically fed according to their needs and be selected for transport when they reach their slaughter weight.

From the time that pigs become meat, the degree of automation and data use in abattoirs and meat-processing companies is ramped up even further. These technological developments are set to hit the pig farming sector over the next ten years. From an efficiency and transparency point of view, it is clear that we will soon reach a point when we know all the relevant details about individual animals, thanks to ear tags with RFID which are set to become commonplace within five to ten years.