Barn technology can only go so far

Human compassion can never be replaced in pig care.

Kevin.Schulz, senior content specialist

February 25, 2020

3 Min Read
Caregiver checking on piglets
Machines and technology will never be able to replace the human touch in hog barns.National Pork Board

Technology has greatly changed our lives, from within our homes to our tractors and livestock barns. For the most part, these changes have been for the better.

My dad and I often discuss the changes he has seen in his 80-plus years of life, from horses being replaced by mechanical horsepower to that horsepower being steered automatically via satellites orbiting the Earth. This discussion usually leads to him asking "what changes will you see in your lifetime?"

My response usually has me describing changes in minutiae, merely improving upon the massive changes that he has seen in his lifetime.

Automation of processes has been seen in factories forever, and more evidence of this came in an email today stating that Amazon will soon be taking its cashier-less technology to a larger scale with an Amazon Go Grocery store in Seattle, quadrupling the shopping space of the first cashier-less store it opened in January 2018.

Some cynics will say that a lot of retailers have already gone cashier-less, since it is often hard to find a human cashier among the multiple void checkout lanes. Sure there are the self-checkout lanes, but I refuse to use those unless the line for that one checkout lane with a human cashier is backed up around the corner. My sense is that if too many people use the self-checkout, the company will justify scaling back on the human inventory. This may be a leap on my part, but if I use self-checkout too often I think I will put people out of a job.

Herbicides technology has eliminated the need for humans to walk soybean fields to hoe out weeds, and autonomous tractors will one day allow farmers to sit in their office while the field work gets done. Retailers are slowly working to remove humans from the checkout lines, and even toying with drones to deliver packages that you have ordered online while sitting in your office watching the computer plant your crops.

Yes, slowly humans are being replaced in the workforce.

One facet where humans will never, and can never, be replaced is in the barns where the care of sows, piglets and hogs is at stake. Sure, there are technologies that can help you do a better job at caring for your livestock, but no droid or machine or drone will ever be able to replace the compassion and care that a human can offer. No machine will ever be able to provide proper Day 1 care for piglets, nor will a machine be able to assist a sow during a troubled labor. Yes, a machine may be able to alert you to a problem, but human hands will still be necessary to intervene.

The We Care principles established by the U.S. pork industry in 2008 do not ignore technology to allow producers to implement and adhere to those principles, but they maintain that humans are very integral to making those principles work in practice. They are not the Technology Care principles, nor the Robot Care principles. These are the We Care principles; principles that only you and I can implement.

About the Author(s)


senior content specialist, National Hog Farmer

Subscribe to Our Newsletters
National Hog Farmer is the source for hog production, management and market news

You May Also Like