Case Study: New Horizon Farms, LLP – Rock Island Finisher

By |December 4th, 2012|

 

Case Study: New Horizon Farms, LLP – Rock Island Finisher

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A total of 12 FeedMeters were installed at a swine finisher site in southwest Minnesota and monitored for accuracy and alerting capabilities over a 90-day period. Using the FeedMeter’s dynamic weighing capabilities and automatic reporting to the MyFarm internet portal, the site manager and feed mill manager were successfully able to avert 10 feed outages and one large feed spill. Feed ordering was also improved by accurately predicting bin empty times and dates. Key achievements:

  • Accuracy of between 0.3 and 3.0% when compared to feed mill delivery weights.
  • Savings of between $2,250 and $3,000 over the trial period in prevented feed outages.
  • Savings of approximately $1,650 from one prevented feed spillage.
  • Demonstrated ability to predict time and date of a bin emptying more than three days in advance.
  • High acceptance by site managers and improvement in labor efficiency.
BACKGROUND

New Horizon Farms LLP (NHF) is a 14,000-sow farrow-to-finish swine production agribusiness based in Southwestern Minnesota. NHF also owns and operates a feed mill, New Horizon Feeds LLC. The mill primarily makes feed for the company’s  own livestock but also has some outside sales to area swine producers.

The Rock Island site is a 2,400-head two-room finisher sorter building with four GroMaster sorters that sort and feed pigs based upon light, medium, and heavy size with varying diets based on the size of the pig.  Pigs are typically placed at 50 pounds and grown to around 270 lbs over a 120-day period. There are a total of 12 standard 75mm flex auger feed lines fed from 12 unique bins to banks of Crystal Springs wet/dry feeders. Each line is equipped with Halo switches and delay timers to control auger run time.

The site is chored by one company employee with occasional help to vaccinate and treat animals.  All feed ordering is the responsibility of the site manager. During the course of this case study, the company changed managers three times.  This is unusual for this site, but was necessary to manage the constantly changing demands within the company’s diverse operations which include multiple research sites, the feed mill, and other production sites.  The current site manager is a full-time maintenance technician who chores the barn between maintenance calls.  This restricts his ability to be at the site at specific times.

Feedlogic’s FeedMeter is a dynamic weighing device which attaches directly to a standard flex auger inside the barn. The meter detects when feed is flowing and weighs it as it passes through the line. Mass and duration information is automatically transmitted wirelessly to a communications hub at the barn which processes it and sends it to an internet portal where the data can be viewed and monitored.  A total of 12 FeedMeters and one Communications Hub were installed at the site. Each meter was mounted to a feed line inside the building between the wall and the first feed drop. No change was made to the augers or auger casings. Each meter receives power through a standard 110V electrical outlet. The Communications Hub was mounted in the building’s office/machine room approximately 100 feet away from the nearest meter. The meters and hub were installed while the barn had pigs and installation was completed in less than a day.

The functionality of Feedlogic’s MyFarm and MyBin web services was also tested during the trial. MyBin provides a way to enter and verify feed deliveries and maintains a real-time inventory level for each bin at a farm. For the first 60 days of the trial, the site was run without using the MyBin system. After implementation, feed ordering improved to the point where the site manager could predict the empty date of a bin and order feed in a more timely fashion.

Feed usage information from the FeedMeters is stored within the MyFarm service and is accessible to registered users.  Multiple users and stakeholders in the production process can gain access to MyFarm or MyBin and receive alerts when certain conditions occur, such as excessive line run times, excessive feed drops, extended periods of non-activity, and low feed bin inventories.

RESULTS

The goal of the trial was to successfully install FeedMeters at a site with a lot of feed activity and compare feed usage from the meter to the actual from the feed mill for accuracy and use the alerting and scheduling tools from MyBin to successfully order feed deliveries so that bins were consistently emptied but pigs were not out of feed.

Following installation, the site was monitored remotely by both NHF and Feedlogic personnel. Over the 90-day trial period a series of feed issues were identified and addressed before they became costly. These included:

  • Feed overflow problem on Line 10. On a Sunday afternoon, the FeedMeter sent out alerts on  excessive run time and excessive dispensed weight. The site manager went to the barn and found one of the feed line drop tubes outside of a feeder spilling feed.  The tube was replaced and a large feed spill was averted.
  • Bin slide problem on Line 12. On a Saturday afternoon, the Line 12 meter began sending excessive run time alerts.  When the site manager went to the barn, he noticed that the slide on the bin had rattled shut, restricting the feed flow to the line and keeping the pigs from getting feed.  He opened and secured the slide so that feed began flowing freely again, averting an extended feed outage.
  • Empty bin warning on Line 10. On that same Saturday afternoon, an excessive empty run time was detected on Line 10 because the bin had run empty. Since the pigs on that line had low consumption and the feeders held nearly a full day’s feed, the site manager could call the feed mill and have feed delivered the next day before pigs were actually out of feed.
  • Bin slide problem on Line 2. One evening, an excessive run time was detected on Line 2. When the site manager arrived at the barn he saw that the slide on the bin had rattled shut, restricting feed .  He opened and secured the slide so that feed could flow freely and pigs were never without feed.
  • Line sensor malfunction on Line 6. After Line 6 had not reported for more than 6 hours, the meter sent out a non-activity alert to the site manager. When he arrived at the barn, he found that the Halo sensor was not functioning properly and preventing the auger from running. He rectified the problem and feed was flowing again immediately, averting an extended out-if-feed event.

In all, a total of nine feed interruptions were detected by the FeedMeters.  Of those, two were from bin slides rattling shut at very inopportune times.  Another four interruptions were caused by poorly planned feed ordering prior to implementation of the MyBin inventory system.   The final three interruptions were expected because bins were being run empty deliberately for testing purposes and feed deliveries had been scheduled days before to arrive within 6 hours of the bins going empty. This was possible using the MyBin predictive “days-to-empty” calculation which uses a rolling 7-day average daily feed usage to predict when the bin will empty.

PAYBACK

During the 12-week test period, no actual feed outages (where pigs were without feed) occurred at the site, primarily because of the immediate alerting directed to the site manager.  Assuming that these actions averted 24-hour feed outage events and each of these 24-hour outage events costs between $0.75 and $1.00/pig in lost revenue and costly health challenges, the total savings generated by the FeedMeters in feed outage prevention over the 90-day trial period was between $2,250 and $3,000.

In addition to preventing feed outages, one meter also alerted to an excessive feed spill, preventing approx. 10,000 lbs of feed from going into the pit and saving around $1,650.

Longer term, the meters can help reduce maintenance costs by reducing the cycling on the feed line motors. Before the meters were installed, the site manager had disabled the delay timers on the motors because he didn’t trust them, causing the motors to cycle off and on frequently. After the meters were installed, the manager could use the alerting system to tell if the line sensor was not working and became comfortable with setting the delay timers to ensure fewer and longer feed events.  All the delay timers have now been set to 60-90 minutes.

From a labor standpoint, the FeedMeter provided a payback in more efficient use of the site manager’s time. The manager grew more and more comfortable with the FeedMeter data and alerting as the trial progressed and now considers it an essential tool for efficient use of his time and good site management. Using his smart phone, the manager can receive alerts as well as check bin inventory status while he is away from the site.

ACCURACY

The accuracy of the FeedMeters during the trial period met the customer’s expectations. By running feed bins empty and recording feed deliveries as shown on feed delivery tickets, the site manager was able to compare weights recorded at the feed mill with those reported by the meters. During the 12-week trial period, over 60 bin refills were recorded and the FeedMeter weight data was consistently between 0.3% and 3.0% off of the feed mill delivery amount.  This level of accuracy was more than adequate for the site manager to use the MyBin inventory system to predict when a bin would be empty and order feed more than three days in advance.

The accuracy of the meters in measuring daily feed consumption was confirmed when the site manager was able to discover an error in stocking the barn by monitoring the 24-hour average daily consumption on the MyFarm web site. This value is calculated automatically by MyFarm by monitoring the total feed weighed by the meters and averaging total daily weighings over a trailing 7-day period. While monitoring 24-hour usage in each line, the manager noted that the west room was consistently around 6% higher than the east room, indicating there were around 75 additional pigs eating from the west lines. After counting the pigs, he confirmed that there were an extra 75 pigs in the west room due to a stocking error.