"Having this kind of data puts us in a position to take a major step forward in technical terms."
Owner of family farrow-to-finish operation
Veulen, Limburg, The Netherlands
About the farm
- 2,400 finishing pigs
- Sows in Nedap ESF
- Were among the first farms to use Nedap Electronic Sow Feeders in dynamic pens
- Finishes pigs in groups of 250
Nedap precision from gestation to finish
Classens family adds Nedap Pig Sorting
Dutch pig farmer Toon Classens believes in housing finishing pigs in large groups, both for his personal job satisfaction and to maintain a positive public perception. He and his family have chosen Nedap Pig Sorting to manage and track individual animals in a targeted manner.
The Classens family owns both a finishing operation and a sow farm in Veulen, located in the Dutch province of Limburg. They had already gained experience with Nedap equipment, using Nedap Electronic Sow Feeding for sows in large groups before choosing to add Nedap Pig Sorting to their management strategies. In 2000, Classens was among the first farmers to begin caring for sows in large groups with Nedap feeding stations.
“I could watch this for hours,” says Classens, as he oversees a unit of 250 pigs finishing pigs. Some are eating, others are interacting playfully, and most are fast asleep. “I like to see so much interaction between the animals, as well as between the people and animals. I just think it is an excellent way to work.”
At the sow facility, Toon’s son Sjef agrees.
“I am enthusiastic about caring for sows in large groups, and I would not have it any other way,” Sjef says. “I enjoy going into the barn every day. Furthermore, we deliver our pigs under the Dutch environmental quality label, Milieukeur and with a star granted by the Better Life hallmark, Beter Leven. Large groups fit in very well with the standards for these premium recognitions.
“We chose Nedap Pig Sorting in part because of the positive experience we had using Nedap ESF on the sow farm. We have been cooperating with Nedap for thirteen years now to our full satisfaction. Of course, we looked at other systems, but we are confident we made the right choice in Nedap Pig Sorting.”
How it works
In 2011, the Classens family built a new barn for 2,440 pigs so they could maintain control over the growing and finishing process of all the piglets from their sow farm. They chose to raise pigs in groups of 250 and manage them with the Nedap Pig Sorting system. This system consists of a weighing unit with individual animal identification and three exits.
Two exits lead to two separate feeding areas. Classens has set the system to ensure that the heaviest 40 percent of the pigs receive growing-finishing feed, while the lightest 60 percent get starter feed. When this group reaches a specific weight, the feeding station will adjust automatically. This way, pigs in the group remain as uniform as possible. The third exit can be used to separate pigs from the group for delivery to market. The system can also sort gilts from barrows.
Clear insight for improvement
The Classens family sees the potential for improving their return on investment by using automation to manage their sows and pigs. For example, managing individual animals within large groups helps them to minimize feed waste by feeding pigs based on individual weights and performance.
Additionally, Classens thinks tracking pigs from start to finish will give him data he can use to make strategic feeding decisions for continued improvement.
“Monitoring animals from birth may lead to useful data for better selection of genetics,” Classens says. “By the end of the process, we might learn that the sow farrowing 33 piglets every year is yielding less than the sow with 26 piglets because the pigs from the smaller litter perform better in the finishing house. Having this kind of data puts us in a position to take a major step forward in technical terms.”