Do We Dare to Demand Connected Hog Systems?

By Curtiss Littlejohn


One of the many challenges facing pork producers is the ever-increasing amount of information that is being generated and made available for decision-making inside and outside of the operation. BENCHMARK editors sat down with Curtiss Littlejohn, long-time pork producer, industry advocate and now Swine Product Manager at Canarm Ag Systems to get his insight into how the industry can turn disparate data sources into information used to make better decisions.


How are larger industry changes affecting how hog farmers manage information?


On most of our farms today we have multiple systems, many of them operated by micro processors, (computers) of some sort. They can range from the simple multi-stage thermostat in a farrowing room, to an integrated alarms system that monitors everything from lights and humidity to feed bins, and calls if there is a problem.

As we move or are moved towards different standards of pig care, many new innovations and technologies will emerge and enhance, or replace, tools we have today. They will change the way we perform and measure our business activities. A key part of our ability to maximize these advances will be interconnectivity.

“We need to ask “what if?” questions and dare to require new systems which are interconnected.”


Can you explain what you mean by interconnectivity?


Connectivity is one of today’s key buzz words. It is the state of being connected, especially relating to the communication of one computer system with another. The prefix “inter” is used to refer to something between, among, mutually, together, during or reciprocally.

As we move forward into the next evolution of swine production and consider different options for our businesses, do we need to dare to expect more from our systems? Think of a facility where we can have systems monitoring our sow feeders, our herd production performance, and environment. We can then build gestation nutrition requirements for individual sows, which result in lower feed cost, larger, more consistent litters, and improve our contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Some have estimated the improvement to the bottom line could be as high as $10 per sow per year. To achieve this, all of our systems will need, not only to have connectivity, but to be better developed to interact with each other, gathering and sending knowledge accumulated through interconnectivity.

“The improvement to the bottom line could be as high as $10 per sow per year. To achieve this, all of our systems will need to be better developed to interact with each other.”


How can we move towards a more connected industry?


To create such interconnected systems will require farms and equipment suppliers to work together to make it happen. It will require some out-of-the-box partnerships in the industry.

Do we dare make such a request? We must, as potential benefits to our farms and our environment are too great.

Curtiss Littlejohn
Curtiss Littlejohn is a pork industry advocate having been a key builder of national programs like CQA, PigTrace, Pork Marketing Canada, Hog Farm Transition Program, Cull Breeding Sow Program, Zone Canada, and the updating of the National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. Curtiss retired from active hog production in 2013 after 29 years and is now Swine Products Manager with Canarm AgSystems, leading new product development.