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All-round control with virtual pig production

New concepts in management software feature programmes created to collect and calculate data from all computers involved in a swine operation. The result is ultra-efficient single screen control.

Remember the single computer for the whole pig unit that lurked in the farm office, intermittently fed with farrowing and feed data keyed-in from scribbled scraps of paper? After that came the big leap forward with on-site interactive computers for climate control and feeding systems. Then came pda sow performance recording on the go.
 
Greatly missed from the start has been a master programme for handling all information and offering a virtual centre for farm calculations and comparisons.Admittedly, the acceptance of ISOagriNET has already gone a long way towards linking the wide variety of computerised systems and information flows often to be found on a single farm. But now several world players in the equipment sector have taken that extra step and used the global publicity of the giant EuroTier exhibition in Hanover, Germany to launch single software programmes for monitoring and managing all the other computers, sensors and cameras in every barn; for trouble-shooting in real time with very rapid response.
 
Real-time recording
One of the most comprehensive of these new virtual systems is BigFarmNet from Big Dutchman. There’s a 3-D view of the respective buildings on-screen and the interactive facility means a click on a single building opens-up all information on the livestock and machinery under that roof. You can check feeding curves and weight gains pen-by-pen. You can activate real time videos of farrowing taking place, view the latest sow pregnancy scans (which are also carried out automatically) or click the feeding system. This opens up yet another animated diagram. Is it working properly? The software will tell you! It also allows you to check for any faults and even to fine-tune the system on-screen per mouse click.
 
BigFarmNet has been engineered to communicate with all of Big Dutchman’s existing programs including those controlling feed silos, sow breeding records or measuring feed conversion in the feeding barns.
 
Naturally, it comes with ISOagriNET compatibility, so other systems can be interfaced into the overall control. But BigFarmNet offers another very attractive aspect: Simplicity. The company claims that it has developed an intuitive approach where the next step for the computer operator/farmer is the logical one. “No more poring over complicated manuals.”
A batch of pigs moved from one pen to another, or even another building? Just key-in where they’ve gone. All feed, breeding and medication information is then automatically sent with the pigs under their new address.
 
Monitoring and control as well as alarm surveillance doesn’t always have to take place on a single screen. BigFarmNet allows continuous communication with designated personal communication media: palms, mobile phones, iphones, Blackberries.
 
Mixing litters for the growing pens? You only have to fill the details in at one terminal – all other computerised aspects get the message, automatically. Typing-in information twice, or even more often, is a thing of the past.
 
And the computers communicating with BigFarmNet can be de-networked at any time for working on their own. This also means a breakdown in the network does not stop control and monitoring, continuing on a computer-by-computer basis. Big Dutchman’s failsafe system allows work done on single machines in such situations to be immediately transferred to the master programme on re-networking.

Finally, all alarms are shown together on the master screen with full details of what has gone wrong. Advantage: immediate reaction is possible.
 
 
 
Skov’s master module
The Skov company from Denmark also introduced its master programme at EuroTier. FarmOnline is the name. It too offers complete control over any number of climate and production computers. The capacity is realistic nowadays: from a single barn to a number of separate farms.
Skov offers the 3-D screen approach as well. Photos or graphic representations of all pig buildings on your farm can be installed for one-click opening of each building on the screen display. For immediate information on conditions on-site, ‘hot-spots’ can be built into the farm building photographs. Click these marked areas and you get key values immediately on-screen.
 
For instance, interior temperature range or alarm system status for that building. A speciality claimed for the FarmOnline system is extra fast communication through the integrated 100 Mbit LAN-Ethernet. This means data – including those setting off real time alarms – can move much faster between barn computers and the master programme, says Skov. FarmOnline also communicates easily with other recording and management programmes and there’s a new Skov WebLink available to help operators that have older computer systems.Where this company has spent a lot of time and effort is on its graphic presentations. These are clear and easily understood.
 
For example the display system ‘Oversight’ gives a comprehensive list of key operational data with information from all compartments available in graph or tabular form. And boosting traceability and quality assurance is the export and download capability of all the tables and graphs as pdf or Excel files.Separate oversights can be called up for the alarm system status and this includes pop-ups with more information on any situation. For more detailed climate control, all key values such as temperature, moisture, air movement can also be managed from a single window. Feeding curves and feed conversion performances are available at the click of a mouse – from the next barn or several kilometres down the road. And on the subject of record keeping, climate history for each unit can be stored for five years within this new Skov system.
 
Complete control for feeders
Another new master software launched at EuroTier is ‘Stablemaster’ from the German Hölscher + Leuschner (H+L) company. This was awarded a DLG innovation silver medal at the event. Stablemaster is dedicated for use in feeding pig units and comes automatically with H+L’s new feeding and ventilation systems or the company’s OptiSort system.
 
The latter was created for largely automatic management and recording of very large groups of feeding pigs and itself won a DLG innovation medal at a previous EuroTier. Featured is an automatic sorting gate in large pens for 200 or more feeding pigs. At this OptiSort gate, pigs are continuously assessed by a camera-and-software system for liveweight as well as weight of various meat joints.Designed to work with OptiSort, Stablemaster features two main categories: one for process management (optimising feeding cycles through data analysis) and another for slaughter data evaluation to determine the time for optimum marketing.Clear graphics with the possibility of historical comparisons are among the hallmarks of the new H+L system that’s aimed to offer the capacity for an intelligent, fully networked feeding enterprise, says managing partner Marc Leuschner. He emphasises that a key aspect of the Stablemaster system is the integrated calculation of all relevant performance parameters. Like the other systems, there are automatic warnings incorporated in the graphics to highlight results straying off the ideal curve.
 
H+L says its new software is the first to offer clear graphic reporting for commercial farms of feed conversion figures alongside daily liveweight gain.What most farmers need are comparisons - benchmarking with previous results on the same farm, or average results. Stablemaster offers this benefit. And includes slaughterline information on carcass quality as an integral part.Comparing results by hand and calculating the optimum weights from slaughter details is extremely time consuming. H+L’s Stablemaster programme does this automatically. Among other graphs, it presents an informative bar diagram showing the range of possible results from a range of feeding regimes, as well as highlighting the ones offering best returns.
 
 

Photo

Norman Dunn, FoodFarm Communications

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