Greg Takle of Walnut Grove was used to manually managing his contract pig growing operation. It used to take Takle and a few other people to get the job done.
Two years ago, Takle installed an automated scale system called SortAll Revolution 2, giving him a chance to run the operation by himself.
"It sorts the pigs for me so it's a lot less labor and it requires a lot less help," said Takle. "Normally I would be sorting them out with two people and I can do it this way by myself. It can be hard to find help."
Takle, along with dozens of other growers around the region, use SortAll 2 and similar systems to manage large heads of pigs.
Lyle Lange of Lange Ag Systems said the SortAll 2 system is unique because of its level of automation.
Lange said the system can handle up to 1,200 head of pigs, splitting them into two groups.
"It continually allows you to monitor the growth rate of the animals in your barn," said Lange. "Every one scale in the room will handle up to 1,200 head of pigs.
"One half of the pigs in the barn will use the scale at a time. The other half of the barn freely walk into the food court to go and eat."
Takle said the benefit to the grower comes in managing the size of the animals he works with.
"We use it to get the pigs to a certain size," said Takle. "They want a certain size pig, not too big and not too small, so we're just trying to go for the ultimate-sized pig."
Takle said the system allows him to get a picture of what an animal's weight is throughout the growing process.
"If you want the pig to be 275 pounds, that's what you have it set for and let it go," said Takle.
The automated system also includes a computer that keeps track of the weight for animals all the way to preparing for market.
"We're collecting the weight and there is a graph in five-pound increments, how many head of pigs in each weight inside the room," said Lange. "There is a growth curve that shows it so they know when they're going to have animals ready to go to market. They can start scheduling with the packer."
Lange said managing the animals through an automated system reduces the amount of labor associated with an operation.
"Doing it this way the animals aren't chased by a human," said Lange. "They naturally flow through the system, there is no chasing pigs this way. You don't have to be around the farm site.
"You can connect it to your phone, and anywhere there is a phone in the world, you can give this system a command and it would start doing it without you being there."
Takle said his first exposure with an automated sorting system came after the group he contracts with installed it.
"The people I contract with put this in first and told me this was the way we needed to go," said Takle. "I saw how it was working for them and I thought, if it's working for them it would work for me."