RC Family Farms
RC Family Farms in Iowa is a wean-to-finish pig production company that has partnered with independent pork producers since 2006 to raise pigs profitably and responsibly.
- Not receiving real-time health and production information from contract farms
- Not being able to treat health problems as quickly and efficiently as possible
- Biosecurity risks and time constraints of needing to visit multiple units each day
- A fully integrated data collection and management and system, all on one secure platform
- A simple-to-use ‘one-stop’ app for caregivers to upload real-time information about their pigs
- Telehealth capabilities to allow owners, producers, and veterinarians to collaborate remotely in real-time
- Radically improved response times to on-farm health issues which helps producers make better decisions, saving pigs and money
- The convenience of real-time data sharing at every stage of production; saves time and effort, fuels growth, and promotes better teamwork
- A system which drives continuous improvement, for health, welfare, and biosecurity, to grow the business more efficiently
“EveryPig is a way to help drive continuous improvement, not necessarily just for health and welfare monitoring. It’s how we’re going to be more efficient in our business.”
TOO MUCH DATA AND A LAG IN REPORTING TIMES, IMPACTING ON TIMELINESS OF DIAGNOSING AND TREATING SICK PIGS PROACTIVELY
There’s a fine line between collecting enough data for efficient pig production and being able to use it effectively to improve herd health, while still staying in control of operational expenses.
It’s a problem that most companies involved with pig farming are familiar with – whether that’s from the production, management, or veterinary perspective.
And RC Family Farms in Iowa was no exception.
Their business mission is raising healthy pigs profitably and responsibly, and giving their barn managers the best support to do so.
However, as their business grew to a network that includes over 400 Farm Owners and Caregivers, they realized that managing all the data for optimal results was becoming a bottleneck in the business.
“We were not receiving real-time health and production information from our contract farms,” says Megan Bomgaars Roos, Vice President and General Counsel of RC Family Farms. “Many caregivers would call our vets when they realized pigs were sick, but not all of them. Some would fail to report death loss of 1 or 2 healthy pigs for several days in a row until that number would spike much higher, and a health issue would have taken hold in the barn. This meant we would start treating a health problem on day 6 instead of day 2.”
These concerns were echoed by the veterinary team as well.
“We have caregivers ranging from people just getting started, to people who have been taking care of pigs for forty years,” says Dr. Brent Carmichael, Manager of Swine Production at RC Family Farms. “Although many paper copies of information such as barn sheets with daily health checkups and records were being submitted, the information we received was delayed.”
As a wean-to-finish production operation, RC Family Farms knew that being able to advise quickly on the information submitted by their pig caregivers was the key to success.
The field manager would visit sites either weekly or bi-weekly depending on whether it was a nursery or finishing unit. However, even with this attention to detail, there were times they didn’t have the full picture of mortality rates and causes until after the pigs were sold and gone, by which time it was too late to deal with.
RC Family Farms knew there had to be a better way to solve this challenge. They wanted to know…
“We were not receiving real-time health and production information from our contract farms”
“How do we get real-time information from the pigs, and from the caregivers, so we can take the best care of our pigs, address animal health issues, and get them healthy after being sick, versus having high death loss?”
“The site might be 10 miles or 45 miles from here, and driving time is dead time, as far as monitoring pig health,” Dr. Carmichael observed. “As well as saving time, we also needed a way to save us from moving a disease from site to site. If I’m out looking at 10 different locations throughout the day, EveryPig is used to determine the health status of the pigs for the best biosecurity between farms.”
This became a key focus for the management team at RC Family Farms. They realized the amount of information they needed to analyze from their pig caregivers was only likely to increase as farming practices became more sophisticated.
And they recognized that they needed a fresh approach to data management.
REAL-TIME DATA STRAIGHT FROM CAREGIVERS ON FARM TO VETERINARIANS AND MANAGEMENT, WITH THE EASE AND SIMPLICITY OF EVERYTHING BEING IN ONE SYSTEM
The RC Family Farms team decided to approach the team behind EveryPig to see if they could help solve their challenge with the quality of data and timeliness in managing and responding to it. They wanted to provide optimum support and veterinary guidance for their caregivers and EveryPig was an innovative way to do this.
Unlike other solutions, RC Family Farms considered, EveryPig provides a fully integrated, intelligence-led, data collection and management and system, all on one secure platform.
Caregivers collect in-depth data from the barn, using the EveryPig app on the smartphone in their pocket, with no fancy tech needed. The real-time data-feed from barns gives the veterinarian and production staff ‘as if they were there’ context to make better decisions on herd health 24/7.
Once RC Family Farms started working with EveryPig, they wisely realized that to make a new system work they would need buy-in from the caregivers at the farm level.
“I tried to make it more about each caregiver, and how I can help them in an efficient manner,” recalls Veterinarian Dr. Brent Carmichael about getting started with EveryPig.
“Traditionally, if a caregiver saw a problem, they would call the veterinary clinic. The clinic would get to the site at some point in the day or even the following day, depending on the priority of health and volume of calls. With EveryPig, now if you contact me this morning, I can get back to you in a timely manner and triage calls based on health status and priority. ”
Dr. Carmichael observed that as with most new technologies and implementing change “80% of people catch onto it pretty quick and will respond and interact through the platform, but some take a little longer”
“That’s not a problem though,” he noted “I just explained to the caregivers who were more hesitant; ‘You’re not going to break the EveryPig app. We’ll walk you through it, it’s not scary.’ He added, “It’s funny. You’ll talk to them a couple of months later, and they’ll say ‘This isn’t bad, the app is easy, and it’s pretty slick.’ “
In fact, the managers at RC Family Farms were pleasantly surprised that the technology, rather than creating any disconnect between the caregivers and senior staff, actually served to better connect them within the business.
“After implementing EveryPig we dramatically improved our response time to health issues. We were surprised to discover how much caregivers appreciated the system, especially having quick access to our vets”
“After implementing EveryPig we dramatically improved our response time to health issues. We were surprised to discover how much caregivers appreciated the system, especially having quick access to our vets,” Megan says. “We’d been somewhat concerned that they’d feel cut off from our team when they started to report using the EveryPig platform. We were surprised that the technology actually served to better connect them to our business.”
RC Family Farms have now been using EveryPig for over three years, and the business is going from strength to strength in a competitive market.
As launch partners they were instrumental in its development, to make sure it worked efficiently and effectively for all the different users in the process: Caregivers raising the pigs at farm level, Veterinarians advising on health and welfare, and Field Managers juggling business growth without sacrificing quality of service.
RADICALLY IMPROVED RESPONSE TIMES TO ON-FARM HEALTH ISSUES, WITH AN EASY-TO-USE SYSTEM WHICH HELPS PRODUCERS MAKE BETTER DECISIONS, SAVING PIGS AND MONEY
Dr. Carmichael says that with EveryPig being used at every stage within RC Family Farms, concerns about timely, in-depth data collection from the barn is now a thing of the past.
“Based on the work that’s been done with EveryPig, the caregivers don’t have to keep a paper barn sheet,” observes Dr. Carmichael. “So they don’t get lost or wet or soiled. The caregivers use their phone or iPad which they have with them all the time. They update it while they’re doing their checkups.”
“The convenience is that if the caregivers see something which bothers them during checkups, they don’t have to call someone and try to explain what they’re seeing,” Carmichael enthuses. “They can take photos or a 20-second video, upload it to EveryPig, and as the veterinarian, I can take a look at it just like I’m standing in the barn.”
Dr. Carmichael points to the fact that the caregivers understand the convenience when they can get additional expert information quickly to help them solve a problem, where they couldn’t do that before. And because of the simple photo and video options within EveryPig he can quickly get all the information he needs for a more in-depth assessment, even without being at the barn in person.
“The thing I like,” Carmichael added, “is I can check the environment from the video. I can see air movement from inlets in the winter, and I can see the flooring for evidence of diarrhea. I can listen for a cough. I can look for pigs that might walk erratically, or have lameness or other situations the field person didn’t see because they’re so focused on listening for a cough. They may not see another clinical sign in other areas of the barn or room, so the video aspect is very helpful for proper disease diagnosis.”
In addition to analyzing the real-time data coming from the barns, Dr. Carmichael noted that EveryPig gives him the tools to put together a clinical picture over several months. This allows him to accurately diagnose and treat using telemedicine, without the time-challenges and biosecurity risks of traveling between barns.
This helps RC Family Farms save time and money.
“I can look at what’s been done at a specific site over time,” explains Carmichael. “I can look at the last 60 days, for example, to see group level treatments completed, the symptoms reported, and how many spot treatments were given. I can put together a clinical picture over two months, even though I haven’t been in the barn.”
Another valuable aspect of using EveryPig has been the double reassurance that antibiotic withdrawal times are always met.
“I monitor antibiotic withdrawals when it’s time to market pigs,” Dr. Carmichael explains. “We use EveryPig as an additional tool to verify we don’t send pigs to market before they’re allowed to go.
I can stay in communication with the caregiver to make sure they put the correct treatment into the pigs, and they know the withdrawal requirements for the product they use, as withdrawal requirements are different for a US or Export market. The financial implications of getting this wrong are huge, and EveryPig gives us the reassurance of a double check to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Looking back on the last three years of using EveryPig, Dr. Carmichael says that he felt it has helped reduce operational expenses for RC Family Farms, and that it would be very difficult to adequately manage and care for the company’s swine herd without the use of EveryPig.
“EveryPig is a way to help drive continuous improvement, not necessarily just for health and welfare monitoring”
“EveryPig is a way to help drive continuous improvement, not necessarily just for health and welfare monitoring,” praises Dr. Carmichael. “This is a way for us to get better, even though we may not be bad at what we’re doing today.”
“The question should be: how do we strive to be better tomorrow than we were today? I think the EveryPig platform can help with this process. EveryPig is a tool to help RC be more efficient and stay in business.”
Megan also concluded that although it can be tricky to pinpoint an exact number, the efficiency savings RC Family Farms now benefit from by using EveryPig are significant.
“We treat more sick pigs, so we’re spending more on medications, but healthier pigs result in production efficiencies, with savings on feed and yardage, and lower mortality,” says Megan. “We also benefit from having more accurate inventory numbers, which ensures we don’t over- or under-schedule trucks to move pigs off of a farm.”
“I would absolutely recommend EveryPig,” enthuses Megan. “It’s an excellent tool to connect all stakeholders involved in livestock production. Engagement from a farm manager or owner reminds the caregiver that their work is important and appreciated. Engagement from the caregiver signals to the manager or owner that the caregiver is competently performing their daily work. Then, when the pig owner uses the platform to observe this interaction and deliver their own specifications for pig care, they are assured that pigs are being cared for at or beyond their expectations.”
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