Pig farmers strive to produce uniform flocks. Yet carcasses from the same flocks on the slaughter line often differ from each other. This is at the expense of the payout. That can be done differently, they think at LeeO. “By mapping the entire life cycle of the individual pig, starting with birth weight, you can see which factors play a role in growth. Then you can manage this,” says Peter ter Linde of LeeO. The application for registering individual pig data using electronic ear tags from the Deventer company is used worldwide.
“About eight years ago we noticed that pig farmers had a lot of flock data, but not data on the individual animal. As soon as a piglet is away from its mother, it is one big mystery, no one knows its exact origin anymore,” says Peter ter Linde, CEO of LeeO.
Average life growth is important
He continues: “In pig farming, a lot is done based on weight. But age is often not taken into account. While this is very important. Ultimately, you want to know what the average life growth is in relation to age. That is why we decided to set up a system in which pigs are monitored individually. By chipping, scanning and weighing the animal immediately after birth, we wanted to establish the relationship between birth weight and slaughter weight. This data, together with data from the sow, the boar and the litter, could be recorded in our app. In the app and in the web portal you could read the various individual animal data so that you knew exactly how your animals were doing in the stable,” says Ter Linde, who indicates that he entered the pig sector completely blank at the time. “We were completely unfamiliar with pigs. Our background is process optimization. Consider developing digital work orders. But we saw that many processes in pig farming could also be improved. That’s why we started LeeO. In the meantime, we have completely fallen in love with pig farming. We come from a more business environment, but pig farming is much more fun.”
Each pig has a passport
During the first five years, LeeO developed its application in close collaboration with a small group of users. The developers soon discovered that in addition to birth weight and genetics, many other factors determine how the pig performs. Consider diseases, medications, type of feed and litter size. One of Ter Linde’s wishes is to also link the company’s health status to LeeO. To get a complete picture of the pig, the slaughter data is also recorded.
“By giving each pig an ear tag with a chip, it receives an animal passport. This passport travels through the chain,” Ter Linde explains. He shows with a simple example what the added value of individual data is. “At one breeder, two piglets died two days before they were due to go to the fattener. Two more died during transport. Of course there was a slight panic. But then the pig farmer scanned the dead animals and it turned out that all four came from the same mother. So it was a genetic problem that could be solved by culling a sow.”
Another example he gives relates to the fact that the pig farmer can share his data with other participants in the chain, so that the identity of the pig is also known at the slaughter line. “A pig farmer received a message from the slaughterhouse. In a certain department on the pig farm, ventilation is said to be inadequate, according to slaughter data. At the slaughter line, pigs from that department were found to have respiratory problems and reduced growth. After inspection, the information from the slaughterhouse turned out to be correct. The ventilation could be restored so that no damage occurred the next round. Without individual animal recognition, this problem would never have been solved so quickly.”
In use worldwide
Three years ago, LeeO entered the market commercially. Successfully. While LeeO continued to develop its application and expanded its capabilities, interest also grew nationally and internationally. A year ago, pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health took a minority stake in LeeO and has since been responsible for the worldwide distribution of the system. “An important step,” says Ter Linde. “We thus gained access to all the major pig-producing countries in the world in one fell swoop. We now see pig companies from countries such as China, Taiwan, Vietnam and South American countries joining the system. We can focus fully on technology and support in the field and do not have to worry about marketing, sales and distribution. Moreover, it provides security if you have such a company behind you. For example, it allows us to purchase earmarks on a large scale so that we are not affected by shortages due to supply problems at chip manufacturers.” In the Netherlands, LeeO is now used on approximately 200 pig farms; 350 worldwide and that number continues to grow.
Sharing data is possible, but not necessary
Data from LeeO can be shared with other players in the chain. However, Ter Linde emphasizes that the pig farmer can basically keep the data he records with LeeO completely for himself. When the system is put into use, all sharing options are unchecked. “The pig farmer is also the owner of the data, even if the use of LeeO is initiated and paid for by another party, for example the breeding organization. The pig farmer decides with whom he shares data.
When participating in certain chain programs, data sharing may be a requirement. For example, the breeder can share the data of his delivered piglets with his buyer. In this way, the fattening pig farmer can see the history of each piglet that is laid up. Then you can better explain certain things within the round,” says Ter Linde.
“Conversely, the fattening pig farmer can let the supplier of his piglets view his data. It can be very interesting for a breeder to see what his piglets ultimately did on the slaughter line.” Ter Linde notices that more and more LeeO users are sharing data with other parts of the chain. “For an entrepreneur it sometimes means that he has to bare his buttocks. The chain partner sees exactly what could be improved at the company. But ultimately you can work together to achieve better results. In chain collaborations, people will ultimately choose that.”
According to Ter Linde, benchmarking using the data from LeeO is not yet an option. “We are not in favor of that. Benchmarking can give a false sense of security. Like ‘I’m not doing worse than the rest, so I’m doing well’. It is better to set your own goals and work towards them. LeeO can support you very well in this.”
This is how LeeO works
To use LeeO, the pig farmer downloads the LeeO app and orders ear tags. The price of the ear tags includes LeeO’s complete service. You only need to buy a scanner. When inseminating, you scan the sow or the sow card and the ejaculate. When the piglets are born, they are given an ear tag and are scanned and weighed. LeeO can work with various weighing systems that automatically transmit the weight to the system. During the growth cycle, all data, such as feed intake and medication use, are registered in the app. This creates a complete picture of the life of the individual pig.
Text: Gerben Hofman
Image: LeeO and Gerben Hofman
Pig farm every month, on the mat at home?
Would you like to read the entire article? Or receive the most beautiful articles and reports at home?
With a subscription to the trade magazine Varkensbedrijf you will receive the latest news. Each edition has a new, applicable theme that is in line with current practice. The extensive company reports also provide a good picture of the sector. In these reports you will become acquainted with the experiences, visions of the future, craftsmanship and management of fellow pig farmers.
Shop for an annual subscription directly below or go to www.varkensbedrijf.nl/abonneren.