Pork Producer Invests in Smart Technology: Sow Feeding System to Help with Farm’s Operations

Pork Producer

Welcome to La Ferme Sylvio Blais! The owners of this farm, located in Quebec, Canada, are allowing us to visit their farrowing and gestation barn.  The integration of smart feeding technology has enabled the management team to have precise control over each animal either for their body condition or on the exact quantity of their feed intake.

Smart Retrofit with GESTAL

Sylvio Blais and Nancy Bety started in 1991 with a 170-head farrow to wean farm operation. Afterwards, they transitioned to a farrow to finish farm until 2014. In 2015, the owners decided to retrofit the farm to include automated sow feeders. They now have a 900-head farrow to wean farm equipped with the GESTAL 3G in the gestation barn and the GESTAL Solo in the farrowing units. They consider the installation of GESTAL has one of their main strength.

Greater Control in the Farrowing Unit

GESTAL sow feeders have made the life of the owners a lot easier; It now allows them to have greater control on feed intake and feed wastage.

“When we walk through the barn in the morning, we look at all the troughs. If there is wastage, we lower the allowed amount of feed. In the afternoon, we do the opposite because we want to optimize sow lactation. In this situation, we increase the feed allowance. It is super easy. We can do it directly on the GESTAL or on the computer in the office.” says Sylvio.

farrowing sows

Increase in Performance in the Farrowing Unit with the Smart Feeder

Since adding the GESTAL Solo feeding system, one of the major improvements is the weaning weight: It has increased by 0.3kg (0.66lb) per piglet. This is a paramount improvement for the producers as they get paid based on weaning weight.

Also impressive, they reached the weight increase even if the piglets are weaned a day sooner than previous parities. Even with summer heat stress and a day younger, the pork producer reached this 0.3kg (0.66lb) weight increase.

In addition, there was an improvement in the wean to oestrus interval—more precisely, the number of sows that are not coming back to heat after weaning. Before GESTAL, the number was around fifteen and now it is between three and six.

Gestal Effect in lactation

Adjusting to Group Housing Was Easy!

In gestation, the management team decided to form groups of forty sows with three GESTAL 3G stations per pen. The system is set to start a new day of feeding at midnight, the following morning when the staff arrives, only two or three sows will need assistance for feeding. Assistance typically involves  gently guiding a sow into the station and ensuring a meal is dropped.

“When we installed the system, we thought it would be complicated, but even the older sows got used to it really quickly and easily! And even gilts. In the 40-animal pens, in 1-1/2 days, there were only 3-4 gilts left that had to be guided. This is really impressive!” tells the owner of the farm.

sow group housing

Intuitive Sow Behaviour

Sylvio also noticed that when sows walk into the GESTAL station, it seems to be intuitive for the animal to lift the door, as the action is similar to “rooting” or foraging. So, they easily enter the free access electronic feeder. With the sound of the feed dropping, curious sows get closer to the feeder and wait for the feeding sow to be finished.  In the end, there is no real training to be done.

Also, if feed is not delivered from the bin, sows won’t eat air. Every feeding station includes a sensor that can confirm that no feed is dropped and puts the sows in feed delay mode. The computer will notify staff that there is no feed detected on the sensor in case human intervention is needed. Because there are other stations available, sows can move to the next station, this process decreases aggression as sows are not skipping a meal.

A Great Add-on for the Technology-savvy Generation

An automatic feeding system like GESTAL, is a must-have to retain younger employees. It is a great add-on for the next generation of pork producers who seek new technologies. Furthermore, it is becoming a necessity as farms are getting bigger, while good labor is harder to find and retain. GESTAL is an asset to staff on a farm, assisting in daily chores and tasks while simultaneously, providing peace of mind without compromising precision. The management team noticed that there is a real return on investment for the system.

Would You Recommend GESTAL to Other Pork Producers?

Nancy spontaneously claims:

“Let’s go! We have peace of mind. You don’t always need to be in the farm and feeding takes care of itself. It is really pleasing! We have beautiful piglets; our weaning weight is great!”

If you wish to increase your farm’s operation with the use of a smart feeding system, contact our team of experts, they can help guide you on how GESTAL can improve your performance and give you peace of mind.