Ever play the weight guessing game at the county or state fair? The guesser makes a visual assessment, asks a few questions and takes an educated guess on the player’s weight. Because the guesser has done it thousands of times, they typically hit the nail on the head. But, put yourself in their shoes. Would you guess correctly 20% of the time? 35%? 50%? When it comes to body condition scoring sows, a visual assessment can be inaccurate up to 50% of the time. And, with technology advancements, there are far more accurate ways to determine sow weights.
“Automated weight monitoring in an electronic sow feeding (ESF) system provides highly accurate weight data and insights,” says Rich Lepper, application and service manager, Livestock Management–North America. “It eliminates the guesswork of body condition scoring and gives you solid data for better informed management decisions.”
Here are four ways automated weight monitoring pays you back:
1. Increase feed efficiency
Feed costs make up to 60-70% of pork producers’ operational costs. ESF alone can help farms achieve up to 20% in feed savings in group gestation housing compared to stalls. Automated weight monitoring can further increase your feed efficiency.
Automated weight monitoring provides more accurate data compared to visual body condition scores. It records a sow’s exact weight as she walks across a scale after exiting an ESF station using RFID technology. You can view a sow’s current weight, her weight trends over time and her weight in comparison to a customizable target. Then, ESF systems enable you to adjust diets accordingly based on individual sow needs to help each maintain optimal BCS.
You can use data rather than speculation to adjust feed plans and avoid wasting feed on heavy sows.
2. Save time and reduce labor costs
It can be time-consuming to weigh sows or measure body condition with a caliper. That’s why so many farmers choose to “guess” at sow BCS. To further complicate the matter, hog production labor pools have been shrinking and wages have been rising.
Because automated weight monitoring automatically collects and transmits sow weights to a central database, you get an abundance of actionable data without added labor costs. There’s no hassle weighing or measuring, and no additional labor is needed. The data goes straight into a database that you can access from anywhere, at any time, via computer, tablet or phone.
3. Breed gilts at optimal weight
Guessing weights on gilts can be costly because gilts will be challenged at first parity if you guess wrong. In second parity, females are likely to experience a reduced ability to breed back and may have smaller litter sizes due to lower BCS. Gilts bred when they are too heavy can experience reduced milk production.
Automated weight monitoring provides data that empowers you to breed gilts at the optimal weight. Its data can tell you exactly when a gilt is in optimal body condition for first parity, enhancing performance and supporting sow longevity.
4. Get more (and heavier) piglets
Fat sows wean 0.5 fewer piglets per litter – so inaccurate body condition scores can have long-term effects on your operation. Fat sows have longer farrowing time. The contraction-inducing hormone oxytocin is distributed over more weight, leading to weaker contractions and slower farrowing time. Milk production worsens, too. And piglets with lower weaning weights later record 37% sow wastage (anestrus, failing to conceive, aborting or non-pregnant at term) compared to 11% for piglets with heavier weaning weights.
Automated weight monitoring empowers you to monitor individual sow’s current weights, individual sow weight trends over time and overall herd weight averages. This enables you to adjust diets accordingly using ESF to optimize sow and pig performance.
August 19, 2019 - Nedap