Pig farmers can expect major changes ahead as far as the design and shape of feeding systems and other equipment needed for pig production, judging from what was on view at both the 2012 SPACE Show in France and at EuroTier in Germany.

The big international companies are vying with each other to incorporate new technology and high-tech innovations into their products to help pig producers become more efficient and be able to cope with the latest welfare, environment regulations and consumer demands.

Electronic feeding stations

At SPACE, for example, Acemo won two gold stars for its electronic pig feeding stations, which have been adapted to include dynamic management and static management to cater for both one batch of pigs per pen, or all the batches in the same pen.

The company’s Elistar 2 and Eliskool 2 include a new mobile synoptic panel, which allows the user to take control of all the automatic functions. The keyboard can be placed wherever it best suits the user, who can then see the movement of the animal and open and close gates and feed dispensers as necessary to train the sow, or help it use the station.

“It enables on-the-spot control and saves time by allowing adjustments to be made without the need to go back to the main computer,” said a spokesman.

Futuristic pig house

Meanwhile, producers lucky enough to get to EuroTier in Hanover would have had a chance to get a glimpse into the future when they visited Big Dutchman’s stand, where the company said it was providing “a concept study” that looked forward to the pig house in 2030.

Speaking at a preview for the event, just before Pig International went to press, a spokesman stressed that it was “just a concept and included a lot of crazy ideas,” and pointed out they were trying to bring all the animal welfare, health and environmental ideas together, in combination with new technology based on group housing for all animals.

He added that the futuristic concept was developed after wide-ranging discussions with pig producers, animal welfare groups and regulators and it provided some of the developments farmers could expect to see within the next two decades.

The display was certainly expected to become a major talking point among producers and other sectors of the industry at the show.

Sow housing trends

Getting back to the present, however, the company has also been busy developing some new systems that producers can buy and use immediately to help them become both more efficient and more productive.This includes a new oestrus detection system that has been developed especially for sows in group housing with electronic sow feeding stations, as well as for sows in free-movement pens.The new SowCheck system analyzes and detects the oestrus reflex over a number of sensations – automatically, stress-free and the company claims it had a high success rate in trials.

The analysis and automatic selection were carried out with technical and natural means, “along the way”, while the sow visits the feeding station, said a spokesman. 

“Two lateral rolls move along the flanks of the sow and another roll simulates the boar’s breast from above. At the same time the sow has direct optical, acoustic and olfactory contact to the boar through an opening with the boar pen on the other side. It can identify sows in heat and sows returning to heat,” he explained.


Monitoring feed intake

The equipment company also introduced a new sensor-based LevelCheck system at the show. This will allow producers to check trough filling levels more precisely at any time so that additional amounts of feed can be mixed and discharged in small, fresh portions.

“In addition to the much improved trough hygiene, the producer can also profit from an improved feed intake of his pigs as he is now able to always provide the right amount of fresh liquid feed in small portions,” the spokesman told Pig International. The device also determined the feeding speed during every meal and automatically processed and displayed the data so any abnormal deviations in the pigs' feed intake that could indicate health issues, could be detected more easily," he added.

The system is based on the principle of pneumatic filling level measurement. With this type of measurement, slightly pressurized air is blown through the sensor tube directly on to the liquid feed in the trough.The sensor is installed at about two to three millimetres above the bottom of the trough. If the pressure of the supplied air is higher than the counter-pressure in the trough, there is still feed in the trough. The counter pressure therefore is the measure determining the filling level.

Animal welfare, monitoring

Also at EuroTier, a Dutch company specializing in developing automation processes for livestock farms was offering what it described as “complete solutions for pig husbandry.”
A spokesman for Nedap explained that its computer-based Nedap Platform allowed individual animal welfare and monitoring Velos systems to operate effectively on the basis of electronic animal identification.

This included pig performance testing equipment, which registered growth and feed conversion data, automatic individual feeding for nursing and insemination areas, applications for the gestation area such as feeding stations and automatic heat detection and separation. In addition, a sorting system for fattening pigs would allow the producer to match feed types to growth and gender, he added.


Pointing out that a record number of innovations about 300 were submitted to the EuroTier innovations commission in the hope of winning a gold medal this year, the commission’s chairman Eberhard Hartung said: “The importance of an innovation for practical work and animal welfare, as well as its impacts on farm and labor management, the environment and the energy situation are crucial for the selection of award-winning products.”

Pig equipment trends

Asked about the trends in machinery, equipment and management for pigs, particularly, Hartung said: “This year's very versatile innovative trends in pig husbandry are characterized not least by the fact that technical solutions are being offered for questions arising in particular from more recent framework conditions concerning pig husbandry methods and from improving animal welfare in keeping methods.

"Generally, methods for improving herd monitoring, individual animal monitoring and management, as well as for group keeping of sows and of finishing pigs are becoming increasingly important," said Hartung. “In the feeding sector, great value is still attached to operational reliability and easy use of machinery and equipment. Practicable products that provide occupational material for pigs are also still in demand.