Within 10 years, most professional pig units will be online and monitoring such factors as temperature, water, feed, growth and pig flow. Farming without monitoring is "like farming blind," Hugh Crabtree, managing director of Farmex, told a conference on Precision Pig Production organized by RASE, in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

"You can't control what you don't measure, and happily, a new generation of pig producers is recognizing this," he said.

He explained that the independent Pig Improvement Via Technology (PIVIT) project, which aims to find out how producers could gain commercial advantage from monitoring, is already beginning to bear fruit since its development in 2012. Achievable improvements included a reduction of 5-10 days in time taken to finish pigs, a narrowing in variation, a 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel use and an 80 percent cut in water waste.


The impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) or "smart" pig farming would result in less variation between herds. Crabtree suggested that, with monitoring, 90 percent of the national herd should aim for the level of performance achieved by the current top 10 percent of herds.

Monitoring also enabled pig farmers to check their units' performance in real time so that potential problems could be highlighted and adjustments made on a day-to-day basis.