Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pipe Thread Sealant vs. Teflon Tape

Tuesday's Trick of the Trade

Stainless steel is a great thing. It doesn’t rust and is very sturdy; two material qualities that are important when working with hogs.

Where stainless can go wrong is during threading.  Whenever we are at a show and mention a nipple seizing up on a stainless steel fitting, every producer winces because they themselves have been out in a G barn trying to unplug a nipple and nothing short of cutting it off will fix it.

This is one of the reasons we developed the SnoutSpout nipple bracket. It is made of glass filled polypropylene, a fiber infused plastic that is extremely sturdy yet cuts like wood.  Now for the best part; the stainless steel nipples won’t seize up on you!

The next question we typically get is whether or not to use Teflon tape to seal the nipple to the bracket.

A plumber friend of mine recently cleared up a minor misconception of threading.

Teflon Tape or Pipe Thread Sealant

The purpose of Teflon Tape is not to seal threads, rather it is to stop the two fittings from seizing together.  It may help with sealing, but that is not its main purpose.  If you are going to use a stainless steel nipple with a stainless steel fitting, the best product to use would be Teflon Tape alone or in combination with some pipe thread sealant.

Pipe Thread Sealant, though, is made to fill in the possible imperfections of threads of a male or female fitting to stop leakage around them.  This is what we suggest you use with the SnoutSpout, as there’s no concern of the nipple seizing inside its female threads. 

Now we have a trick for applying Pipe Thread Sealant.  Instead of applying directly to the male threads of the nipple, we found it’s advantageous to apply the sealant around the first few thread grooves of the female fitting (SnoutSpout). As you turn to insert the nipple, the sealant spreads around on the inside, instead of being pushed to the outside, as it can be when applying directly to the male threaded nipple.
Ben likes to add that if you are in a jam in the barn, latex hog marking chalk is a good substitute for pipe thread sealant.

What is a trick you use to seal your fittings?

                                 -   Dave

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Kitchen Table

Friday Feature:

The HUB of our house has always been the kitchen table.  When outstretched to capacity, it is a 113 inch massive Farm Table

It started as a place for candlelit dinners when we were first married, a place to gather with friends for coffee, the little artist’s workbench for different crafts, the laundry folding table, the homework station for the young ones, the central place for prayer, the base for pictures of family celebrations.

A typical look at our "desk" set up.
The kitchen table has always been my place to do bookwork -  a convenient way to multi-task – keep an eye on the kids, watch the cookies in the oven and listen for the drier bell to go off.  Not to mention, you can spread your work out easily.  With the start of PigEasy, the Kitchen Table has become a hot commodity. 

You usually think of everyone having their “seat” at the table ready to eat.  Now Katie and I have our “seat” at the table for business.  It is a good location for Dave to pop in to answer questions and Ben to pick up order sheets.  We have gathered around the table to have product naming contests, have prepped some of our products for production, and yes, we still eat at our table. Preparing for lunch includes shoving the piles to the other end.

It is with some excitement that we will be moving the PigEasy office to a new location in town.  It is very exciting to have less clutter and less distraction – but I am going to miss the activity around the kitchen table. 

We are used to having a “mobile office”.  It may be a meeting in the shop, brainstorming on the long drives, or the “feet up for 10” in the living room.  We now have an “official office” in our future, but I have a feeling the HOME BASE of the KITCHEN TABLE will still be an active location for PigEasy developments.  And if any encouragement is needed, the cookies fresh out of the oven always seem to work.

Post-brunch product naming contest.

- Karen

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Improve your Gilts, Improve your Herd

Dave’s awakening occurred a few years ago at a regional boot camp offered by his genetics company.  There, the presenter discussed the importance of gilt development.  He said gilts are significant because the size of their first litter can define their lifetime litter size, yet gilts represent quite a challenge in many ways.

First, gilts need to be of ideal age, weight and condition when bred to achieve optimal performance.  In order to accomplish this, feed intake must be maximized.

However, gilts experience a lot of changes prior to breeding as they are moved from an isolation barn to a breeding barn.  It often takes gilts a week to get back to full feed after being moved, which is a week of limited intake days.

No producer wants to limit feed their gilts.  But the conundrum turns into either the producer wastes feed attempting to maximize feed intake or they set the boxes back to save feed, which essentially limits the gilt until they are “used to their new surroundings.”

After the presentation, Dave spent a lot of time watching.  He would observe gilts entering the crate and would watch as they consumed (or didn’t consume) their feed in the mornings and afternoons.  In the evenings, he would venture back over to the gestation barn to watch the gilts and see if activity was any different. 

Dave observed gilts aren’t stressed over the crate.  They seemed to respond well to their individual maternity pen.  However, he did notice the gilts would get up at various times ready to eat, but the feed would be washed down the trough from the watering system or was no longer fresh as they would prefer it.

Then it came to Dave; the isolation barns and breeding barns have very different feeding systems.  Isolation barns or finishing barns have self-feeders, which allow young gilts to eat small amounts through the day.  Individual maternity pens drop large amounts of feed into a trough one to two times a day and the gilt is expected to consume it in a certain amount of time before water washes it away or it becomes stale.   As Dave puts it, “We’re expecting our gilts to eat like sows.”

MealMeter prototypes Dave tried out in his breed row.
The wheels began to turn and prototypes were created.  After coming up with a working design, Dave put what is now called the MealMeter in front of his entire gilt row.  His theory proved correct.  Instead of taking days to get back to full feed, gilts quickly consumed their ration when they could decide when they wanted to eat.  He was on to something.

His production numbers told the same story.  Before, he was in the bottom half of his contemporary group for P1 production, even with a solid breeding team whose conception rates are excellent.  Six months of using the MealMeter shot his numbers up to one of the top in P1 total born.  There were no other changes to breeding and management. 

Dave's 6 month averages before and after installing the MealMeter.

What is so exciting is P1 total born rate is just one benefit to consider.  Aside from obvious feed savings, think about what starting gilts off well can do for the entire herd.  For instance, Dave significantly reduced his replacement rate because now that his gilts begin well, they stay in the herd much longer.

Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix from Swine Management Services, LLC wrote in the recent article ‘Does gilt performance dictate farm success’ that not only does the farrowing rate of gilts correlate to the farrowing rate for the whole farm, but also in the amount of repeats, total born, and wean to 1st service intervals. “(Top farms) have figured out that gilts drive the farm now and in the future.  Most have invested in good genetics, have gilt-developing facilities on the farm or close by and have added labor to take care of the gilts from entry to breeding.”

Yes, gilts take more management and attention, but if you start them off right, the benefits are far reaching.

Listen to Dave tell the story here:

Until next time,


Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Feature: Clint, Aaron & Al

While I’m laying here on the couch recovering from recent back surgery, I thought I’d write a little something about a few people who are very important to PigEasy’s success.


Clint is one of our most seasoned employees.
Clint is a Templeton native who began working with Klocke Farms part time when he was a teenager.  Clint came on board full time after high school and is vital to both Klocke Farms and PigEasy.

With his ability and experience, Clint’s input with PigEasy manufacturing and our products has been essential.  He treats the business as his own and ensures that each job is a job well done.  In addition to PigEasy and general farm work, Clint is our construction man and he also keeps the shop and equipment organized and clean, which is not an easy task when working with us Klockes!


Aaron began working for PigEasy and Klocke Farms last August and is quickly coming up to speed on the farm and PigEasy product line.  He handles a lot of the manufacturing and packaging for PigEasy.  Aaron also helps on other various jobs with Klocke Farms.  He is very eager to learn how and why we do what we do to understand our process better.  We’re lucky to have someone with that much enthusiasm.

You can find Al and Aaron working hard in the Klocke Farms and PigEasy shops.


Al began working with Klocke Farms part time a handful of years ago. He helps with loading pigs and does the daily chores in the finishing barn and helps with loading out. He also assists with various tasks on the farm and is willing to step in and help when needed.  His years of previous experience at the local co-op have helped in many situations on the farm and we value his input.

I once heard that the key to success and happiness is to surround yourself with the right people and I believe we have done just that.

Have a great weekend!

-   Ben

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Role Does Nutritional Intake Play in Reproductive Performance?

Studies Show Avoiding Limited Intake Days (LID) Has Positive Impact
**** This article was included in a mailer last fall and confirms the importance of feed intake at key moments in a sow's reproductive cycle. That message is worth repeating!

Today’s research has brought advancements in genetics that have resulted in stronger animals able to produce and sustain larger litters. However, feed delivery practices have not kept pace with these genetics. Too often, sows and gilts are not getting the proper amount of nutrition when needed. These Low Intake Days (LID) negatively impact the overall condition of the animal and create operational losses through reductions in sow productivity, longevity and feed waste.

On-site trials that have provided ad-lib feeding for newly introduced gilts and sows, pre breed and in lactation, revealed a significant link between the daily nutritional needs of the animals and what is lacking in current feeding practices.

“A sow that produces 50 pigs in a lifetime versus 30 has a huge advantage for being able to have a reduced cost of each pig going out the door,” said Dr. Paul Armbrecht, a veterinarian from Lake City, Iowa with over 40-years swine experience. “Allowing these animals to determine when they feed has been proven to increase Parity 1 performance, reduce the replacement rate, bring gilts back to full feed on day one, get sows back into metabolic mode and recovering faster after farrowing; thus being able to produce more litters over their lifetime.”
Dave Klocke, owner/operator of Klocke Farms, Inc., and founder of PigEasy, LLC, believes the industry is shifting toward this long-term look at the productivity of the animal over their entire lifetime. Currently, pigs per sow per year is the measure for performance of the entire herd. The reality is, according to Klocke, that a better benchmark is pigs per sow per lifetime.

“Pigs per sow per year is not necessarily the most profitable, Klocke explained. “This individual animal is an investment, and because of LID, there are a lot of young females who do not get beyond P1 or P2 because they don’t consume enough feed at critical periods in their reproductive cycle. The sow doesn’t perform well. It is not her fault, it is a failure of the system to feed her properly by giving her all the feed she needs at the right time to achieve her genetic potential.”

Almost every producer, even the most experienced, knows that providing optimal feed intake is an issue, and until now, it has simply been treated as a matter of course. To address this, Klocke, through PigEasy, has designed and created the MealMeter feeding device. The MealMeter allows the animal to have access to feed on demand. He has put the MealMeter into his sow farm, and has seen a dramatic change since implementation.

“Our sow farm is now pushing 60 pigs per sow per lifetime,” Klocke said. “Industry average is probably under 40. Prior to utilizing the MealMeter, we achieved 50, and I was happy with that. Sixty pigs per sow per lifetime is not something we are driving for, it is just happening with a reduction in LIDs.”
The above Klocke Farm records compare  6 months of conventional drop feeding to P1 pre-breed gilts vs. 6 months using the  MealMeter feeding device. There were no other changes to the gilts' diet or management.
With the use of the MealMeter, Klocke begins ad-lib feeding with the introduction of the gilt to the operation pre breed and continues it with lactating sows, weaned sows and passed or late weaned sows. “When gilts are moved into a sow operation for breeding/ production, the general thought is that the gilts go off feed because they are getting used to the individual maternity pen,” he noted. “What I have found, is these animals are used to eating in a finisher setting, where they consume smaller amounts ad-lib throughout the day. When we put them in individual maternity pens, they don’t know how to eat in a setting where they are dropped feed once or twice a day and expected to consume it in a short period of time, before it becomes stale or the water washes their ration down the trough.” Likewise, in lactation, if the sow is not ready to eat when the ration drops, feed will build up and cause spoilage, thus creating more LIDs. According to a recent article on Benchmark.Farms.com, by Dr. Jerry Torrison, Mark E. Wilson and Zach Rambo, what happens during the final stage of the reproductive process can have a major impact on sow retention. “Lactation is one of the most energetically expensive and challenging activities a female can undertake,” they wrote. “Therefore, feed consumption is critical during lactation. Anil et al., (2006) reported that sows consuming < 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) of feed per day during the first two weeks of lactation were more likely to be removed from the herd before their next parity. The odds of removal were highest for sows that did not consume any feed during any single day for the first 14 days of lactation. The bottom line from this study is, ‘if sows don’t eat in lactation, they are going to leave the farm.’” The authors also reported that a reduction in LIDs resulted in reduced weight loss, increased weight gain for the litter and decreased likelihood of a prolonged wean to estrus interval by 42 percent for each kg of increase in the average daily feed intake. Ron Ketchem and Mark Rix of Swine Management Services in Fremont, Neb. point to ad-lib feeding as a necessity in a June article in National Hog Farmer. They answer the question, “What are the top 32 farms doing to be at 30+ pigs?” “In lactation, they know that nursing sows need to be able to eat all the feed they want as soon as they are done farrowing and also concentrate on feeding extra feed from weaning to breeding in order to improve body condition, farrowing rate and total pigs born in the next litter.” With retention, productive days per year and litter sizes being the most important factors to the overall economic success of a farrowing operation, more and more producers are learning how to optimize the genetic benefits of their animals. “There has been a lot of industry focus in recent decades on feed efficiency in the grow/finish sector,” Klocke said. “But, not a lot of time has been spent talking about feed efficiency on the sow farm. With feed being a major input cost, it requires our attention. The ability to use the MealMeter to allocate the feed where it is needed the most, without concern of waste, is going to be a major benefit in both sow reproductive performance and the overall economics of swine operations.”
For more information on the MealMeter feeding device and its accompanying products, visit http://www.pigeasy.com/pigeasy-products/mealmeter/.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Drilling through Stainless Steel

Tuesday's Trick of the Trade

Stainless steel is the material of choice for many purposes in a hog barn. What would hog production be without stainless steel? But then there comes a time when you need to repair or remodel the stainless steel equipment and your first thought is, “Well, I better buy a lot of bits.”

When you take up this nearly impossible task, the typical guy response to material resistance is to run the drill faster while pushing harder. You shift it up to the highest speed. (At Klocke Farms, the term would be “letting it rip, tater chip!”) Within seconds, the tip of your drill bit looks more like a branding iron, blazing red.  You mutter, “I’ll sharpen that up someday” as you place it in the drawer also known as the Drill Bit Graveyard.

A few years back someone gave me this tip. It has benefited me greatly and I’d like to pass it on to you.

PVC Cleaner

PVC Cleaner can be found at your local
hardware store or plumbing retailer.
DISCLAIMER*** PVC cleaner is flammable. You need to keep this in mind as a spark could cause a serious problem. I’ve never had any issues with it, but it is important to take note and be cautious.

1.  You need to start with a good quality drill bit. Top of the line is not a necessity, but now that you won’t be going through a bunch of them, you can spend more money on quality.

2.  Next, you need a little bit of patience. It does require stopping several times to reapply the PVC cleaner for every hole you drill, depending on the thickness of the steel.  I’m not sure why it works, but it seems to me that the cleaner keeps the bit cool to prevent the cutting edge from being burnt or damaged from overheating.

3.  Typically it is best to start with a center punch to make a point or divot to prevent the drill bit from walking on you.

4.  Dip your drill bit into the PVC cleaner and start drilling. Using your variable speed trigger while applying appropriate down pressure, vary the speed of your drill bit until you find the speed that gives you the best results. It is typically lower to mid speeds and not wide open. It will drill well for several seconds, but the cleaner will wear off, so you may have to dip it a couple times when drilling the hole.

I’ve found it better to stop drilling and dip your bit more often than not. It will keep your good bit cutting and working much longer and your sanity intact!

PVC cleaner on a drill bit will not make a bad bit work well. Once the bit is dull, into the graveyard it goes, so that’s why it’s important to start off with a good bit.

If you do this and dip often, you’ll be able keep that bit in use much longer.

While we haven't personally tested it out, our feeder manufacturer recently recommended Elmer's Glue as an option.  What trick do you have for drilling through stainless steel?

Hope this helps.

- Dave

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


My name is Katie.  About a year and a half ago I gave up my corporate 8-5 job in Des Moines to help my family run a startup business called PigEasy.  My work station went from a cubicle and head set to a laptop, briefcase and kitchen table.  It’s been an exciting ride.

So, who’s involved?


Dad (Dave) is the brains behind both Klocke Farms and PigEasy.  He has always been an intuitive pig guy who doesn’t have any hobbies, unless you want to count inventing things.  If you asked him what his idea of a perfect Saturday is, he would answer a quiet shop and something to create.

Growing up on the heels of his father, Herbert, Dad always knew he wanted to be a farmer himself.  It has been said that Grandpa Herbert really didn’t have much of a passion for the crop side of farming or the mechanics of all the equipment, but loved working with livestock. Dad was working in the shop and planting corn by the time he reached double digits and shared in Grandpa Herbert’s love of caring for livestock, the hogs particularly.

After high school, Dad enrolled in an agricultural program at Iowa State University. He didn’t get the opportunity to finish, as Grandpa Herbert suffered a debilitating stroke while Dad was a sophomore and passed away that fall.  Dad left college soon after to return to the family farm.

Dad, along with his brother, Dennis, adapted their current operation of purebred swine breeding stock to an eventual 2700 head farrow to wean farm that Dad still owns and operates today.

While he hasn’t always held the title of inventor and patent holder, Dad has always created or “retrofitted” tools and items to make the process better or easier. He has never accepted an inefficiency or problem as is and continues to develop ways to make pork production more efficient and easier for the producer and for the pig.

You will see Dad at trade shows and events with me. He enjoys it because he gets to talk pigs with fellow producers… oh yeah, and promote PigEasy products too.


Ben is the oldest Klocke kid. He knew he was going to be a farmer from the moment he could walk.  During harvest season, Ben would beg Mom and Dad to let him stay home from school so he could help out and run the grain cart.

Today, Ben runs the day to day operations of the farm and coordinates the manufacturing and shipping of PigEasy products.

Because of Ben and his ability to take care of much of the farming operation, Dad and I are able to travel and promote PigEasy. We couldn’t have both Klocke Farms and PigEasy without him.


Mom (Karen) is our self-proclaimed OSHA representative, but her responsibilities don’t end there. She is also PigEasy and Klocke Farms’ CFO, office administrator, HR department, Controller, Accounting Specialist, Insurance procurer, rock picker-upper, harvest errand runner, dog walker, ambulance driver…. I think this list just scratches the surface.

Mom made the decision to leave her work as a recreational therapist when we were teenagers to be more available to Dad and the farming operation. Thank goodness, because if we were to hire out all that she does, we would have gone broke a long time ago!

Mary & Ross

Mary and Ross are the two younger Klocke kids. Mary graduated from Mount Mercy with her BSN and is a NICU nurse in Des Moines. When she’s not saving babies, she’s cuddling up with her puppy, Reese, and husband, Nick, in Ankeny.

Ross is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa and will be graduating this spring with a degree in Bio-Med. While we couldn’t talk him into veterinary medicine, he'll be heading to medical school in the coming year.

Mary and Ross are not just our medical consultants. On their days off, you will find them at trade shows and company events helping to promote PigEasy.

Clint & Nick

They call themselves The Outlaws. My husband, Clint, and Mary’s husband, Nick, also get involved in Klocke Farms and PigEasy. When Nick isn’t selling Capital City equipment, he can be seen running the PipePik at trade shows. Clint is a Purchasing Manager during the day, a Captain in the Iowa National Guard on weekends, and a PigEasy consultant and master field tiller during his free time.  Dad must have trained us well; marry guys who can drive a tractor!


As the second oldest, in true second oldest fashion, I wasn’t quite sure what my calling was.  After high school, I attended the University of Northern Iowa and graduated with a degree in Political Communication and Business Communication. 

It wasn’t until my senior year that I knew I wanted to work in the agricultural industry.  That fall, I enrolled in a wellness course that was required to graduate. On the day they went over protein and human health, the professor chose to show videos of animal abuse and made claims that in order buy meat that was healthy and to avoid buying meat from farms that abuse animals, you must choose free range, organic, antibiotic free and hormone free (not possible!) at the grocery store.  I got angry, called Dad, called the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers and then wrote an email to my professor requesting time in front of the class to present the inaccuracies of her message and to talk about my personal experience being raised on a hog farm.  She gave me 20 minutes (woohoo!) and I think I changed some people’s minds. That was the day I realized what my passion is.

As for PigEasy, my title says Marketing and Sales, but it’s really an all-in-all fielding and dispersing of PigEasy information. I love it.

Why a Blog?

Often Dad and I talk about our observations and successes or find an article or theory that really goes hand in hand with what we are promoting, but we don’t know how to best communicate this information to fellow pork producers and industry professionals. We could post it to social media, but it’s tough to get that type of a message out in 250 characters or less.

Additionally, with over 50 years of experience Dad has a few tricks up his sleeve in general with pork production, and we would love to pass that on to anyone it would help.

So what’s this blog going to be about? It’s going to be about pork production, farming, agricultural advocacy, business and most importantly, family; because it all starts and ends with family, right?

Until next time,


“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” – Anthony Brandt