Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Ingenuity of Pork Producers

Call it inventive, resourceful, creative or just plain desperate (I’m kind of kidding…); pork producers have the most interesting tricks hidden up high in those coverall sleeves of theirs. Spending time at industry trade shows and conferences, I’ve heard a lot about different contraptions producers have rigged up to make any job a little easier. It always impresses me. I may be biased, but pork producers come up with some great ideas to simplify tasks and improve their operation’s efficiency.

Oftentimes they don’t realize their own cleverness until someone else makes a note of it. Take my dad, for instance. Most of the PigEasy products were developed with only our farm in mind and weren’t put on the market until an outside consultant noticed it on a walk through and mentioned to him that it would be beneficial for other farms to use.

Today’s trick isn’t some new and exciting product we’ve spent years developing, but it gives an example of how a little handiness can make a huge difference in streamlining daily tasks.

When we began AI-ing sows over 20 years ago, Dad wanted to keep the AI supplies organized and in one spot. He didn’t want that spot to be in the way and also didn’t want it to slow down the process by keeping it stationary. After noticing the top of the g-stalls were connected via two rods, Dad decided to make up a tray that could use the rods as a track.

The roller tray is made from a light angle iron and 1/4" thick plastic sheet. He bought small lawn mower wheels, cut off the rubber and installed them on a 1/2” rod.

Some simple cutting and welding is all it took to make the roller tray and it has helped speed up and simplify AI-ing sows at KFI. We still use the originals today.

As a pork producer, you have a never-ending list of tasks and any tool that makes your day easier is well worth the upfront time it takes to put it together.

That’s why we’re called PigEASY. We believe simplifying daily chores can make a huge impact on the success of your sow farm.

Until next time,


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday’s Trick of the Trade: Ear Tagging

KFI began a new program some time ago that required all pigs to be tagged on both ears Day 1-2. We quickly got set up to tag hundreds of pigs a day; everything seemed straightforward and efficient. That was until we observed the toll it took on our staff. Our KFI crew was burning out rapidly and who could blame them? They were squeezing the tagger on both ears of hundreds of wiggling pigs while hunched over holding them in place. Whew! That’s a lot to ask someone to do day in and day out.

Dave knew he had to figure out a solution when his employees began to dread the task at hand. He had to #1: eliminate the repetitive squeezing, #2: somehow find a way to more efficiently organize all the tags before they are applied to the pigs, and #3: speed up the process. 

With collaboration, the PigEasy ID Cart was developed. It wasn’t surprising the benefits of using the ID Cart blossomed after using the first prototype. Because maybe you’re like me and prefer to read fast, I compiled a list of the Top Benefits of the PigEasy ID Cart:

1) Saves your Hands and Back

To tag pigs with the PigEasy ID Cart, the operator standing upright, simply holds the pig in one hand, positions the ear with the other and steps on the pedal that applies the tagger. That’s it. This means no more squeezing and no more crouching to tag pigs. Not only do you save your hands and back from the complications of the repetitive, strenuous task, but you also get rid of the typical fatigue that shows up quickly into this daily chore.

What this means for you if you’re a

Sow Farm Employee:  You save your body from the arduous job of tagging and are able to be more effective in this task and throughout your shift each day.

Sow Farm Manager/Owner:  You increase efficiency, employee morale and retention while lowering risk of workmen’s comp issues in the future. (3 Words: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) 

2) Speeds Up the Process

The PigEasy ID Cart is set up as a two person job, so someone is always loading the taggers and the other is holding the pig and operating the foot pedals. With everything set up, in place and in close proximity, you can quickly tag a lot of pigs.

Tags are set up on the sheets prior to heading out to the farrowing barn so organizing is done before the task begins. This makes for a quick turnaround.

With everything operating smoothly and efficiently without fatigue, the KFI crew can tag a litter in about 2 minutes. (This is from the time they arrive to load the pigs in the cart, to finishing up the paperwork after all the pigs are tagged!)

3) More Uniform Application

Now, I understand that “fast” isn’t always better. But because the PigEasy ID Cart is operated by two foot pedals, the person tagging can use both hands to hold the pig and ear in place. It’s a lot easier to get the placement of the tag right when you’re not handling the tagger and the pig at the same time.

This leads to an increase in tag retention later in the wean to finish stage.

4) Increased Organization and Efficiency

One of the first prototypes on the farm

By having all the tags ready on the tagging sheet before you head out to the barns, you’ll have the tags already organized before things get hectic in the room. The tagging sheet is also designed so the tags won’t fall out if you were to drop it.

Speaking of the tagging sheet, there are trays underneath the hopper for 3 additional trays so you do not have to head back to the office when you empty one. If you tag by color, you can organize each tray to a different color and have it close by for simple switching.

Its holding hopper specifically designed for the cart is large enough for a full litter and deep enough so they can’t jump out.

The PigEasy ID Cart tags pigs quickly, accurately, and with a lot less effort compared to manual tagging. Take a look at this video to watch the KFI crew tagging in action:

If you have similar problems with tattooing, no problem! We can easily convert the ID Cart to accommodate tattooing.

Call (888) 354-0112 for pricing and details.

Until next time,


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pork Producer Intuition turns Innovation

World Pork Expo, Des Moines, IA

The 2017 World Pork Expo is around the corner and we’re putting the finishing touches on PigEasy products that will be featured in our expanding booth (#V729). Even as we focus on promoting our tried and true product line, Dave never stops developing new innovations.

The tough decision every May is “What do we put in our booth this year?”

1. MealMeter feed dispenser -

Stainless Steel MealMeter

No question about it, we’ll have the MealMeter set up in a g-stall display. The MealMeter is what launched PigEasy and we are proud of how it boosts feed intake while preventing waste with incoming gilts, weaned sows and under conditioned sows.

PigEasy Sow Feeder

2. PigEasy Sow Feeder - 

The MealMeter will also be installed in the PigEasy Sow Feeder. The sow feeder’s one-of-a-kind design eliminates feed waste. (Yes, it really does!) By removing the corners, making this her only water source and using the MealMeter as the ad lib feed dispenser, you will get rid of the tedious task of cleaning out feeders.

PigEasy Farrowing Crate

3. PigEasy Farrowing Crate - 

The PigEasy Sow Feeder will be displayed with the PigEasy Farrowing Crate. Simple design with exclusive features, the PigEasy Farrowing Crate is built with durability, ease of use, and sow comfort in mind. (Remember the Flip Over feature?) Stop by our booth (#V729) to check out the one crate that makes sow care a whole lot easier.

We’re launching a number of new products this year. Some continue to focus on feeding because we know ourselves how feed is one of the biggest expenses on the farm and is always an area of improvement at every stage.

4. Breeder Bowl -

PigEasy Breeder Bowl

Speaking of PigEasy Sow Feeder, we’ve also wanted to allocate the success of the PigEasy Sow Feeder over to the breed row. To have the same feeding system in the breed row that’s also in farrowing makes the transition seamless and avoids any reproductive hiccups in the future.  To mirror the inner workings of the Sow Feeder, we’ve developed the PigEasy Breeder Bowl. The Breeder Bowl benefits from the same bottom design as the Sow Feeder without interfering with her access to boar exposure during breeding. Like the Sow Feeder, the Breeder Bowl serves as both her feed and water source, which regulates over-dispensing and over-watering and is self-cleaning. If you’re wanting to take feed intake to the next level pre-breed, you need to check out the MealMeter with the Breeder Bowl set up.

5. PigEasy I.D. Cart

PigEasy ID Cart

Finally, we’ve branched out from feeders and tackled another major migraine on a sow farm; pig tagging.  Certain programs require ear tagging all pigs farrowed on a sow farm and it becomes a time-consuming, fatigue-inducing chore. Ear tagging hundreds of pigs a day takes a huge toll on staff and can add stress to your hands and back.  Klocke Farms employees were wearing down after starting a new program that required ear tagging, so Dave got to work. With help, he invented the PigEasy ID Cart. The PigEasy ID Cart is a foot operated double tagger that also serves as a holding cart for the litter. The PigEasy ID Cart also comes with a tagging sheet to organize your tags.  I can’t even come close to being able to describe how cool this cart is.  Check out this video to watch how quickly the team can tag pigs accurately and with much less effort.  We’ll have one of these at the show as well, so you can test it out for yourself at the PigEasy Booth (#V729).

We’re looking forward to another wonderful year at the World Pork Expo June 7-9 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds!

See you then!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Strengthening your Weakest Link

"You’re only as strong as your weakest player."

We’ve heard this line from our coaches throughout our childhood.  Maybe you were the star athlete who mentored teammates that could use some improvement after you heard these words of wisdom. Or maybe you were the kid who immediately thought, “Crap! Is that me?” (guilty!) and spent the rest of the season paranoid you’re bringing down the team.

Regardless of where you were on the spectrum, this statement carries much truth.  If you have a weak center fielder, experienced players at bat are going to try to hit it to them EVERY TIME.

The prime intention for signing kids up for sports isn’t to create star athletes who go on to make millions in the big leagues. Our kids are part of the team to learn invaluable life lessons about working together toward a common goal.

As sow farm operators, our common goal is to keep sows healthy and productive throughout their life so they farrow healthy and productive pigs for market. I would say we’re succeeding as an industry with increased numbers of pigs out the door every year.

All too often though, our focus on the number of pigs out the door overpowers our focus on sow longevity. This can be a costly mistake.

Regardless of farm size, if you had the ability to change the outcome of just a handful of young sows each week in farrowing or pre breed, the affects could very well transform your herd.  

The “weakest” sows, typically lower parity sows that lose condition in farrowing, often get moved back to breeding with the idea that she will regain condition over the course of gestation. Unfortunately, studies indicate otherwise.  

“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 the sows don’t eat in lactation, they are going to leave the farm.”” - Managingsows for optimum retention by Zach Rambo, Dr. Jerry Torrison, Mark E. Wilson

If there was a solution that could change the outcome of five lower parity sows a turn in addition to raising the bar on the high performing sows, how much would you save a year in replacement costs? Five sows doesn’t sound like much, but similar to compound interest, the returns keep building. Let’s say you made a change that resulted in saving 5 P1s and P2s each turn of a group. If you’re weaning a group each week, five sows saved per group turn would equal out to around 260 productive younger sows remaining in the herd each year. That’s 260 less replacement gilts to purchase and acclimate to the farm, not to mention 260 better performing animals taking up space.

We learned these effects are long term at Klocke Farms. By focusing on ad lib feeding at key points in a sow’s reproductive cycle (prebreed and in lactation), sows choose to consume their daily ration at their own time throughout the day instead of when we decide. By giving sows the choice, limited intake days are avoided and sows stay in great condition and remain productive in the herd.

Initially, we observed a huge jump in Total Born with P1 gilts and over time lowered our replacement rate because our Pigs per Sow Lifetime continues to increase. Saving those bottom tier sows changed the entire makeup of our sow herd. Not only do we get more out of each gilt investment, but the herd is healthier and much more uniform overall.

Just like our coaches drilled into us when we were kids, the weak players on a team affect the team’s overall success more than we all think and by bringing that lower tier up, it boosts the team up all around. I guess we can chalk another one up for our childhood coaches!

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A New AI Saddle Option

With the AI Saddle, we’ve been living under the age-old advice of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And who can blame us? This artificial insemination tool has been a gold standard in the swine industry for almost 15 years with major improvements in 2006. Producing a top notch, dependable product has been our criterion and making any sort of change could upset the apple cart…. or so we thought.

Pork Producers love the AI Saddle because:

1) It speeds up breeding time. That’s the number one
reason we developed the AI Saddle as we noticed sows at the end of the breed row were not producing as well as the other sows. It turned out those sows were entering the refractory period before the breeding crew could get to them. An impossible task was asked of the employees; to be thorough, but also swift in order to successfully breed the entire row of sows in time. Now, breeding technicians can breed multiple sows at one time, all hands-free.

2) Its snug fit helps with stimulation and keeps the saddle in place along with the semen bag/bottle. Speaking of…

3) The heavy duty belt with Velcro secures both bags and bottles at an upright angle to ensure complete emptying.

4) The AI Saddle is extremely durable and long lasting. We continue to use many of the original 2006 injection molded plastic saddles at Klocke Farms. They still work like a charm!

However, we have been challenged with a few requests from customers that all led to another saddle option.  The requests were:

1)   “We want to be able to put on the saddle with one hand.”

Breeding technicians are multi-tasking throughout the task of breeding because everything needs to work like clockwork. Therefore, many breeding technicians would like to be able to place it on the sow with one hand while holding the AI supplies in the other.

2)  “We have older sows in the herd that are pretty large and worry about the saddle being too tight.”

As genetics, nutrition and feeding systems continue to improve, we have the ability to keep productive sows in the herd much longer, which also means that they can get substantially larger. Basically, there can be quite a range in weight and size between sows in the same herd.

So, we got to work.  We developed a new width with the same effective design to tackle these requests.  After testing it out in our breed barn (what we do with all our prototypes), we knew we had the answer; the Husky Saddle.

The Husky Saddle will feature gray colored plastic to differentiate from the
AI Saddle

The Husky Saddle has a wider opening that can be applied and removed with one hand. The wider opening also fits easier on larger sows, while continuing to be a snug fit that doesn’t fall off if the sow rubs up against the divider. It is made of the same plastic and same general design of the AI Saddle so we know it is just as effective and durable. It features the same heavy duty belt to hold up any type of semen apparatus. Basically, you will continue to have the reliability of the AI Saddle, yet built for the more mature gals.

For those of you who love the AI Saddle as is, not to worry! The regular AI Saddle will still be available in addition to the new Husky Saddle option.

Because there are sows of all ages on your farm, you may want both saddles available at breed time. OR maybe you will prefer one over the other, depending on your type of genetics and herd. Either way, you have two reliable options to best fit your AI needs.

AI Saddle (white)  vs  Husky Saddle (gray)

Call (888) 354-0112 or email info@pigeasy.com to find out how to order.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Conquering the Pain of a Production Migraine

I started getting migraines in middle school. 

I left most softball games with a bad migraine
from getting overheated.
Mine had typical triggers, but as a 12 year old I barely understood what migraines was and didn't understand why they were happening.  By the end of high school, I was getting 3-4 a week and only my mom was able to notice. I’d walk in the room, she’d look at me and say, “You have a migraine?”


I was so used to the throbbing pain and nausea that I could function like a normal human being and while people knew I suffered from migraines, no one realized the extent of it.

As I matured, I learned some of what set them off and tricks to lessen the blow, but they were still there.

This little guy was a blessing in more ways than one.
It wasn’t until I was in the second trimester of pregnancy with my son that it clicked one day; I hadn’t had a migraine in over a month. I haven’t gone that long since I was a little girl! Today, migraines have become few and far between in my world, which is a good thing, but it has also been eye-opening.

Now when I get a migraine, they are KILLER. I need a dark room, an ice pack, and some time to get over it. Is it that these migraines are worse than before? Has my pain tolerance gone down?  I don’t think so.

I believe I was so used to being in semi-constant pain that it was a continuous reality of mine and I just lived with it. Because what was the alternative?

How often do we have “migraines” in our lives that we just live with? They are constant, throbbing problems that bring huge hiccups to our business and its success, but 1) we can’t find the trigger, and 2) even if we found the trigger, a solution isn’t readily available.

Feeding sows was a migraine for my dad. We knew how important optimal feed intake was, but we couldn’t get it right. We set the boxes too high, there was too much feed waste; we set the boxes too low, production suffered.

We hear about it a lot with other producers. Everyone knows it’s a problem. Each farm does what it has to do to get feed into these animals, but at what cost? The cost might be pretty clear, as in excess feed waste. That is something you can clearly see and quantify. OR the cost might be considered gray area, where your crew is having to spend time hand feeding sows when they should really be focusing on XX and YY tasks. Quantifying those added costs can be difficult. But, you do what you have to do to get through it. What is the alternative?
MealMeter with pre-breed gilts

We’re passionate about feeding sows for a number of reasons, but I think the unbridled excitement comes from the sow production “migraine” we found a solution for without adding a bunch of management to the workforce and outlandish costs per crate.

The MealMeter feed dispenser became a huge game changer not just on our farm, but for customers.  We recently caught up with a customer who said, “How else could we get this intake in these sows?”

We know what it’s like to live with production migraines because our roots are in sow production, right along with you. There’s nothing more frustrating than a migraine where you know the trigger, but you can’t do anything about it.

With the MealMeter, you can do something. There is an alternative to living with this production migraine, and it’s PigEasy.

Until Next Time,