When asked his opinion of the ProGrow solution from Skov A/S, Sales Director Henrik Bendtsen from Danish feed manufacturer Hedegaard A/S does not hesitate. “It improves quality in the pig house,” he says, adding that ProGrow can make a real difference for pig farmers everywhere.
Hedegaard sells feed mixtures and raw materials to farmers but also acts as a product consultant, helping farmers with good advice and expert knowledge. Hedegaard is therefore very interested in new tools and technologies that can help pig farmers in their daily jobs, and the company was happy to participate in a pilot project testing the ProGrow solution in a weaner house.
“The purpose was to learn more about how our feed mixtures work at any given time”, says Henrik Bendtsen. “How do we get the best possible output from our input? Given today’s environmental restrictions and feed quality requirements, it is crucial that we deliver a top performance as feed vendors.”
Camera growth monitoring: a revolutionary feature
Delivering a top performance, of course, is also crucial to pig farmers, and ProGrow can help. The system keeps track of how much feed, and what types of feed, are used for the pigs, and how much water they drink. But the thing that will probably save farmers the most work is the camera growth monitoring feature. The weight of all pigs is continuously calculated based on images from ceiling-mounted cameras. As a result, farmers no longer need to manually weigh the pigs, which can be a lot of work.
In short, ProGrow keeps track of what you feed your animals, and how much they grow as a result. All of this data is automatically saved in the system and presented in user-friendly charts. Farmers can see which feed mixtures produce the best results and act on this knowledge. To grab just one example, they can switch from an expensive feed mixture when a cheaper one will do. They can minimise antibiotics consumption by immediately cutting down when it is safe to do so. They no longer need to manually weigh the pigs. And they can spot changes in feed and water consumption immediately, quickly detecting if one or more animals are not healthy.
Acting immediately on real-time data
The data in ProGrow is available almost as soon as it is recorded in the system. Henrik Bendtsen considers this a major advantage. “At Hedegaard, we have sometimes found ourselves acting on the results of control visits that happened two to three months ago, and saying, ‘If only we’d done something three months ago,’” he says.
By contrast, ProGrow provides data that is only a couple of hours old, and farmers can optimise production as soon as it is necessary – not several months later. And this kind of real-time data translates into savings. Just imagine what three months of overspending on feed mixtures would cost you! In a business where up to 70% of the daily operating costs involve feed, ProGrow offers a great way of optimising production while minimising cost.
For companies like Hedegaard, too, the data from the system is a great advantage. ProGrow data can help feed manufacturers improve the quality and performance of their feed products.
A more structured and systematic approach to pig farm management
ProGrow is a true next-generation solution that takes full advantage of modern online and digital tools. However, Henrik Bendtsen is careful to emphasise that it is not a substitute for good old-fashioned farm work. “It’s not about replacing hands-on management!” he says. “Farmers have great experience with their animals, and they can often tell from simply looking at a pig how it’s doing and what it needs. But with this system, we get data presented in a good way that can help us automate some tasks and take a more structured and systematic approach to pig farm management”.
Farmers willing to embrace these opportunities can get a complete overview of pig production in the palms of their hands using mobile devices. And ProGrow makes it a lot easier for them to work with consultants such as Hedegaard: External specialists can be given permission to log on to the farmer’s system, look at the actual performance data, and provide remote support. Again, this saves time for the farmer – and for the consultant who no longer has to drive great distances to visit the farm.
“There are great opportunities in this”, concludes Henrik Bendtsen. “Buying cameras and software may not be as flashy as buying a new tractor, but it really pays off. The clients I’ve talked to are excited about ProGrow. Many farmers who are about to build or rebuild their pig houses are asking for more information. They can see that it makes good financial sense to invest in this kind of system. And it helps us provide much better, more qualified consultancy services to our clients.”