Labor-friendly automated sow feeding

Feeding lactating sows is one of the most challenging skills to learn in a farrowing operation.
calendar icon 10 February 2022
clock icon 2 minute read


Sows are individuals with varying appetites, and it is extremely difficult to feed sows correctly by hand. Feed wastage occurs when a sow is overfed. Underfeeding high-producing individuals does not allow them to milk at their full potential.

Some products automate the process by conveying feed in and automatically dumping several times a day from volumetric drops. While this eliminates the physical labor of hauling feed, it really is not an improvement over hand feeding because you still must estimate the amount of feed.

Computerized systems provide customized feeding of individual sows by using small dispensers to deliver "snack-sized" feed portions on a preset schedule. When the activator does not detect feeding activity for a predetermined time, it sends an alert. While these systems can be successful, they rely on motors, electronics, and internet connectivity to function and require additional skills to operate and maintain.

The SowMAX dispenser mounts to existing farrowing feeders

SowMAX dispensers simplify this feeding task. For several days before farrowing, a predetermined amount of feed is placed in the SowMAXs twice a day. These feedings get the sows up and accustomed them to activating the trigger mechanism.

SowMAX hopper for hand filling or Grow-Disk chain system for automatic fill.

After farrowing, the SowMAX dispensers can be filled automatically using a flex auger system or Chain Disk feed delivery system or hand filled. The farrowing attendant monitors the amount of feed the sow consumes each day by viewing the drop tube or hopper prior to the feed system running or refilling the hopper if you are filling by hand. Any sows that are not eating can be monitored and cared for as needed.

Simple selector determines the amount of feed dropped each time the sow activates the lever

The SowMAX simplifies the training for one of the most challenging tasks on a sow farm. The farm staff follows an easy-to-learn routine free from having to maintain complex computer systems. It also eliminates most of the physical labor when paired with an automated Grow-Disk fill system and Sow Drops.

A study by W.L. Flowers at North Carolina State University highlights the expected differences between hand feeding and SowMAX in lactation, including increased weaning weights and heavier sows.

You can also download a copy of our eBook, The SowMAX Handbook, for more information.

Sarah Mikesell

Editor

Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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