Productivity gains help lower labor costs and improve finishing pig performance.

It’s difficult to imagine operating a finishing facility in today’s era of thin margins without real-time information on finishing pig weight and performance. Yet that’s how typical finishing barns were built and equipped prior to the development of automation technology.

“A one-size-fits-all traditional finishing barn does not lend itself to the efficiencies wanted and needed by today’s pig farmers,” says Jeff Morten, U.S. sales account manager at Nedap Livestock Management. “Automated sorting scales sort pigs according to performance and offer farmers a way to feed pigs based on individual weights. As a result, farmers see maximized feed efficiency and more consistent finished groups of pigs.”
In fact, research shows automated pig sorting technology increased revenues by $7,000-$10,000 (€5,933-€8,476) per year per 1,000-head barn.[1]

Here are three ways you can benefit from this technology:

1. Reduce guessing and sorting losses, improve delivery planning

Using individual electronic animal identification, you have the option to identify and monitor each pig individually with automated sorting scale technology, even in large groups. Through an application programming interface (API) connection, individual weights can be retrieved online.

Automated sorting scales weigh each pig and direct it to one of two feeding areas where it receives the diet best suited to the pig’s weight. You can customize diets based on daily growth data and your farm goals and better meet packer specifications.

Nedap Pig Performance Testing station

When a pig reaches market weight, the system automatically cuts it from the group by directing it to a delivery section.
Automated sorting eliminates estimating weights and manual sorting. Instead, continuous collection of growth data allows accurate forecasting of daily gains, allowing you to plan deliveries and transport up to four weeks in advance.

“Our sort loss has dropped from $3.20 to $0.14 (€ 2.71 to € 0.12) per head,” says Roger Cech, a Nebraska pig producer who upgraded to automated sorting scale technology in 2019. “You can project consistent loads and set up marketing much better with the data.”

Research conducted at Purdue University shows that when sorting accuracy errors occur, the sort loss per pig was $2.50 to $4.55 (€2.12 to €3.86) per pig greater than with accurate sorting.[2]

2. Save months of time, make better use of labor force

Automation also drastically reduced the time Cech’s team spends sorting, marking and loading market hogs.

“Without the automatic sorters, it took us an hour to mark, then another hour-and-a-half to sort each load of 175 pigs,” says Cech. “That ends up being about 15 hours per room, and we have six rooms to empty.”
Now, since animals are automatically sorted, Cech’s team can loadout in about 15 minutes, using only one to two employees to get the job done. Plus, he says, “the pigs load more calmly than without using the sorters.”

The time savings equates to months of time across his labor force. Automated systems also allow Cech to put his team’s skills to better use by eliminating repetitious tasks and enabling people to focus on animals that need their attention.

3. Find greater efficiency – in many areas

In addition to greater labor and planning efficiency, automated sorting scales deliver efficiency by providing:

– More meat produced per foot (meter) of available floor space (up to 99% effective use of floor space)

– Data on activity, weight, growth and sorting results are available in real time, all day, every day to enable you to make more informed individual animal and group management decisions

“It’s time to take control of your finishing program,” says Morten. “You can quit feeding and marketing to averages. Instead, invest in automation to increase the uniformity of your finishing groups and get them to market on time, every time.”


Feed finishing pigs individually within groups ›

[1] Pork Information Gateway. 2006. Factsheet. Performance Records and Their Use in Genetic Improvement. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020:

[2] Cheng J, Cabezon F, Schinckel, AP, Que Y. March 2018. Impact of Sorting Errors on Sort Loss and Optimal Market Weight for Market Pigs. Department of Animal Sciences. Purdue University.