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 Duane Kleve, U.S. general 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 five 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, the 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 sorts 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. For an operation with two employees and three phases of pigs, that equals 1.5 hours of labor per room.  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. Produce more meat per foot of floor space 

Housing facilities must be used efficiently to get the most return from this asset. Automated sorting scale technology can help boost barn efficiency by helping you produce more meat per foot (meter) – helping you achieve up to 99% effective use of available floor space.

4. Feed appropriate diets to lower feed cost

It’s important to make the most of your feed investment and not over- or under-feed pigs. Automated sorting systems weigh each pig and direct it to one of two feeding areas with the diet best suited to its actual weight.

5. Gain real-time, 24/7 data

Access to continually collected, accurate activity, weight, growth and sorting data means you can make more informed, timely individual pig and group management decisions.

“It’s time to take control of your finishing program,” says Kleve. “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.