Try as they might, hog producers and their barn staff cannot be in all places at all times, especially if farms do not employ staff around the clock.
Herdstar has created the HouseLink system that allows producers to have their barns’ operations at their fingertips, even though they may be miles away. The HouseLink Text Message Interface is one of six members of the HouseLink family. This one connects BinTrac to users via text message, while the others connect BinTrac to various house and barn controls.
The HouseLink Text Message Interface is able to send bin weight, feed usage and fill events along with temperature and water usage to users via text message. “Part of the remote monitoring capabilities works into your biosecurity plan so you can check levels without having someone having to go outside of the barn to check the feed bins,” says Herdstar President Mark Jaeger. “Safety also comes into play as no one has to climb the feed bins either.”
The HouseLink Text Interface requires the BinTrac bin weighing system to be effective. The basic system with the HouseLink Text Interface provides an economical way to get the data. Many producers will upgrade to the web-based solution as the need for historical data and reporting becomes necessary.
Up to two telephone numbers can be programmed to receive scheduled text notifications twice a day of feed levels, high and low temperatures, average temperatures, and water usage. Jaeger says unscheduled texts will be sent to the two phone numbers in the event of a feed delivery or other feed line issues. In the event of a power outage, notification will be sent that an outage has occurred, as well as notification once the power has been restored.
Erik Potter, New Product Tour panelist, says he likes “that it sends out text messages” to keep producers informed.
Jaeger says some producers have programmed in their feed mill to receive current feed levels from the site. This allows the feed mill to place orders without the need to contact the site.
The HouseLink is an economical solution for a site with up to three barns, Jaeger says, but above that producers would be advised to move into Herdstar’s Enterprise system.
The introductory price of the HouseLink Text Interface is $499. Herdstar manages the cellular connection through the wireless carrier for a small subscription fee. Producers that require more in-depth data can connect to bintrac.com, the web-based solution Herdstar provides. Producers may also get their data directly from the database through a view or other application programming interface.
Jaeger says Herdstar has diligently worked to correct the perception that had existed in the industry regarding unreliable data generated from bin scale systems. “We’re getting that data out there that’s reliable,” by building Herdstar’s BinTrac system.
Cost entry can be a prohibitive factor to producers adopting any new technology, but panelist Aaron Lower thinks “this product is an opportunity to try to get cost entry down for a relatively basic system.”
Herdstar requires the user to install one HouseLink Text Interface per indicator or barn. If a site has a single barn with one indicator, the user would purchase one HouseLink Text Interface to receive the data for the bins feeding the barn.
Lower sees this product as a way to remove human error, “really taking the caregiver out of it.”
Hog producer panelist Pat Thome sees this system as an extension of the producer, especially during the summer. “I see the value of this when you have long weekends, with Memorial Day and Labor Day” when producers do try to get away from the farm for a respite.